Protection mooted for Chinese settlement

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Ashburton’s Chinese market gardening village in Allens Road may get heritage protection.

That, in turn, may help it attract government funding to help in its restoration.

The descendants of the original Chinese land owners passed stewardship of the land to the council several years ago, and heritage consultant Arlene Baird has completed an assessment of the site.

She told the council subcommittee considering the restoration of the village that the site is listed as a Group 1 heritage item but not listed by Heritage New Zealand, “but they want to change that”.

She said heritage status was normally reserved for pre-1900 sites, but it could declare post-1900 sites – there were only seven in New Zealand, including a military site in Featherston and gold mining sites in Central Otago – and that offered protection.

She said it was considered a “highly significant” site in New Zealand and the move was “very important and very exciting”.

Having it declared a heritage site meant slightly more restriction on the site – if there were any digging (not wanted by the families) an archaeologist would have to be on site.

Any approved digging would have to be signed off by Heritage New Zealand.

On the positive side, having it as a heritage site offered more protection and, possibly, funding.

The subcommittee has five tenders for restoration work proposed for the sites, but they were taken in-committee.

Mrs Baird said Heritage New Zealand had indicated it might be able to set aside a few thousand dollars straight away for interpretation signs, and could provide letters of support for other funding applications.

An archaeologist would have to visit and assess the site, then an application would go before a committee in Christchurch and, if approved, go to Wellington for final sign-off.

That could take until April-June of next year, by which times, if a tender is accepted, some planned demolition work could take place.

The proposal is to restore some buildings and remove others.

If the site is given archaeological status, it would be the only post-1900 one in Canterbury.