Monday, 06 July 2020


Preserving the feeling of coming home

Preserving the feeling of coming home

Thames Coromandel District Council mayor Glenn Leach has a vision for the Coromandel Peninsula to be turned into a heritage region. When sharing his vision with Brent Page, chairman of TCDC’s Economic Development Committee, Mr Page immediately started looking into the practical implications of such a ground-breaking arrangement.

There are no heritage regions in New Zealand, but overseas a number of examples can be found.

One good example is the Oil Region Heritage Area in Pennsylvania, USA. In the United States a National Heritage Area is defined as, "A place designated by [government] where natural, cultural, historic and scenic resources combine to form a cohesive, nationally distinct landscape arising from patterns of human activity shaped by geography. These patterns make National Heritage Areas representative of the national experience through the physical features that remain and the traditions that have evolved in them. Continued use of National Heritage Areas by people whose traditions helped to shape the landscapes enhances their significance."

The Oil Region is generally deemed to be the birthplace of the Unites States’ petroleum industry. The area isn’t short on natural beauty and has a rich history of rapid growth that established many communities along its waterways and on its highlands.

For Mr Leach there are similarities between the Coromandel and the Oil Region. "The Coromandel, and Mercury Bay specifically, is most likely the spiritual birthplace of New Zealand as a nation," he said. "It’s where Kupe came on shore. It’s where Cook put New Zealand on the world map. It’s where gold mining and kauri logging created a lot of growth, not only on the Peninsula, but further afield as well. Would Auckland have developed the way it did if it wasn’t for industry on the Coromandel?

"Clearly it can be argued that mining and logging were detrimental to the Peninsula, but it is part of our heritage and needs to be preserved.

"There’s another thing too. The Peninsula has a spiritual impact on the people living here. Every time I come home from Auckland and I see the Coromandel Ranges when driving across the Hauraki Plains, I have this profound feeling that I’m coming home. Many people share that feeling with me. It’s something that needs to be preserved."

Practically the creation of a heritage region means thinking and planning 50 or 100 years into the future. "It means to protect the beauty and bounty of the Coromandel, the same beauty and bounty that attracted Kupe and Cook here, for our grandchildren and their grandchildren," said Mr Page. "A heritage region is a way to prescribe how an area of natural beauty and historical significance can be preserved while allowing communities inside that area to flourish. It means the Thames Coast Road will never be dotted with houses all the way to Coromandel Town and Whitianga’s Buffalo Beach won’t turn into a Gold Coast. It may also mean more marine reserves and a booming recreational fishing industry."

There’s no legislation in New Zealand allowing heritage regions. "But that can be changed," Mr Leach said. "It’s early days and there are many people we have to talk to. But really all we need at the end of the day is a groundswell of public support from people who also want their grandchildren to feel they’re coming home when they see the Coromandel ranges in the distance."


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