By Rosemary Baird
On 12-16 December 2022, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga and the Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawhai held a pilot workshop in Waiuta township, West Coast, to pass on heritage knowledge and building/conservation skills to nine keen DOC rangers.
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga graduate conservation advisor Mike Gillies first came up with the idea of a workshop when he previously worked at DOC as a heritage ranger. “I could see that we needed capability training in specific heritage skills and approaches. Older DOC rangers were retiring, and their knowledge and expertise was being lost,” says Mike.
Once Mike moved to Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, the workshop went ahead as a partnership, ably coordinated by Brooke Cox (DOC Operations Support). Mike, along with DOC Senior Heritage Advisor, Tom Barker, and DOC ranger, John Taylor, taught the practical carpentry skills. John Taylor trained rangers on historic bush-hut carpentry methods such as using an adze, axes, and wedges to hew timber, froes to make shingles, and a chainsaw mill to recreate pit sawn timber.
There were also presentations on heritage conservation practices, such as how stabilize a building, appropriate recording and documentation of historic buildings, and how to restore and build using contemporary materials in a sympathetic manner. “We were able to get across important heritage conservation principles such as making repairs reversible and identifiable,” says Mike.
Another important contribution from Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga was explaining the archaeological process. Senior Archaeologist Frank van der Heijden, presented about the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014. “It resulted in a lively and lengthy Q and A session on how they can use this knowledge during their work on the ground and help the Department to do better,” says Frank.
The afternoons were spent with the rangers putting their learning to practical use in repairing Jos Divis’ cottage at Waiuta. Waiuta, a goldmining ghost town, is a category 1 site, a Tohu Whenua site, and is managed by the Department of Conservation. “Putting their new learning into practice at such a fascinating location was a real highlight for all the rangers,” says Mike.
Both Te Papa Atawhai and Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga hope that this pilot can be built upon with further training workshops in the future.