This region's first Blue Heritage Plaque was unveiled in Raetihi on July 11, at the former BNZ building restored by Bernice Frost and Anthea Hatfield.
Hatfield and Frost won it at the inaugural Whanganui Regional Heritage Awards in October last year. It will be joined by others in a network created by Historic Places Aotearoa.
It's large and blue, and more noticeable than the small brass plaques used by Heritage New Zealand (HNZ), Whanganui Regional Heritage Trust (WRHT) member Helen Craig said.
"The big blue plaque will make heritage more obvious. It's easy to see. It's all about raising awareness of heritage and building a reputation as a heritage centre."
The unveiling was done by HNZ CEO Andrew Coleman, and HNZ paid for the plaque. About 20 people were there for the occasion, including tradespeople, two who had lived in the building in the 1940s, and Ruapehu Mayor Don Cameron.
The bank was built in 1911, and a bank manager's house was added in 1938. The manager kept a gun, in case of robbery. A woman at the unveiling remembered that adults once discovered her and a friend using the gun as a prop in a game of cops and robbers.
There will be five more such plaques unveiled in Whanganui this year, Craig said. The WRHT has been approaching the owners of sites that meet criteria - criteria such as HNZ Category 1 and 2 status or extensive renovation work.
The owners will be able to purchase the plaques.
Frost and Hatfield were rapt to win theirs.
They were among a group of five Raetihi business people who bought the bank building for $40,000 in an auction in 1995, after the BNZ had closed the branch.
Later Hatfield and Frost bought the others out. They aimed to restore the building, and turn it into an art gallery to enhance the town's reputation.
They started by replacing the whole roof, and rented out the house at the back to pay the mortgage.
A Lotteries grant in 2016 enabled them to fix rotten boards and paint the exterior, and more grants funded half the cost of restoring the pressed steel ceiling and rimu panelling of the main bank chamber.
"Now it's just fabulous," Frost said.
The bank chamber and most of the former house now contains the Raetihi Arts Trust Gallery, with Peak FM manager Geoff Anderson renting the former bank manager's office.
"He is wonderful. People come in and he shows them all around," Frost said.
The gallery opened in April 2019 and is run by a trust. It has had exhibitions by well known artists like Michel Tuffery.
Work to restore the kitchen of the former bank manager's house continues, Frost said, and may enable other uses of the building.