Date: 20 June 2012
The Department of Conservation (DOC) has decided that part of the historic St Bathans Post Office will be open to the public, while the rest of the building will be used for visitor accommodation.
DOC has approved a concession application by former St Bathans resident James Cameron to give the post office a new lease of life and adapt the well-known landmark to provide accommodation. Mr Cameron’s application was the subject of a hearing late last year.
Submitters were mostly concerned about the lack of public access to the ground floor and changes to historic fixtures and features. As a result, DOC’s final decision has taken these views into account and the public will have access to a dedicated space on the ground floor containing counters and telephone booths. The approved concession also includes several reporting requirements for Mr Cameron regarding historic features and fittings.
DOC Visitor and Historic Assets Manager Anita Middlemiss said, “It’s great that this project can now be completed and we’re satisfied a compromise has been reached ensuring this building will be preserved for future generations to use and enjoy and also allowing the public to access part of the building.”
James Cameron said, “The boutique accommodation will provide an option for people visiting St Bathans to stay longer in this idyllic spot. Using the building for accommodation will not only ensure the building is actively used but also strengthen St Bathans to become a destination for travellers”.
Last year DOC carried out maintenance work on the building. Much of the work is not visible to the eye – it included stabilisation and pile replacement, chimney strengthening, window joinery repairs, upgrading plumbing and electric wiring, performing roof and guttering repairs and removing a dormant bee hive. DOC engaged a conservation architect for the project, to ensure that the work preserved and maintained the original historic features of the building.
The former St Bathans Post Office was built in 1909, replacing an earlier post office at the site. The post office was closed in 1937. From then it has had a varied life including being used temporarily as a school and private residence.
It is a grand two-storied timber building that dominates the streetscape of the once-booming gold mining town of St Bathans. One of four heritage buildings managed by DOC in the village, the post office is important to both the local and wider Central Otago community. St Bathans is a key side-trip for tourists, including those from the Otago Central Rail Trail.
Until recently, the public area of the former post office was used by as a gift shop. This ended with the death of well known St Bathans personality Sharon Hinds and the public no longer had access to the ground-floor of this Category 2 historic building.
The public were asked for proposals on future uses of the building in 2008 under an expression of interest process. James Cameron, a St Bathans resident, submitted a proposal for visitor accommodation. This was approved in principle by the Department subject to the outcome of public advertising. The final decision takes into account a number of concerns raised under that public process.