Plans for gold rush site under fire

New stalls . . . Former Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable Trust chairwoman Adrienne Shaw inspects a 19th› century stable block at the historic site last week, earmarked for conversion to toilets, accompanied by grandchildren Lily Dunlop and Jonathon Bashford (both 7). PHOTO: RICHARD DAVISON

Plans to develop a historic gold rush site are poorly thought out and financially unsustainable, a former trustee says.

In July, the Lawrence Chinese Camp Charitable Trust announced plans to develop the 19th›century site into a heritage visitor attraction during the next five to 10 years.

However, former trust chairwoman Adrienne Shaw said last week she and other descendants of the camp were unhappy with the detail of the plan, and doubtful it would provide for the camp’s long› term financial sustainability.

Ms Shaw resigned from the trust in 2019 following self› described ‘‘differences in opinion and styles’’.

Before she resigned, she had promoted a similar development at the site, at an estimated cost of $4.5 million.

Current chairwoman Denise Ng did not provide cost estimates for the trust’s new plan when it was announced in July.

Ms Shaw said that was one of several issues of ‘‘transparency of communication’’ from the current trust.

‘‘The trust appears to have done no community or stakeholder consultation before producing this latest plan.

‘‘They make no provision for the camp to generate sustainable revenues through, say, a visitor centre. Redeveloping the site’s [historic] hotel into small meeting rooms, and the stable block into toilets, both fails to recognise their heritage value, and limits their use for larger tour groups that could bring valuable revenue into the camp.’’

She said during planning for the earlier complex, Chinese community benefactors had expressed interest in supporting the project.

She feared that impetus had since been lost.

‘‘The trust doesn’t appear to have a co-ordinated fundraising strategy. We’re frustrated with continued inaction in securing the future of this important heritage site. All we want is for the trust to work with the descendants and the wider public for the best outcome.’’

In a statement on behalf of the trust, Ms Ng said Ms Shaw was not party to full details for the new project.

‘‘At this stage, our priority is to restore the heritage buildings at the camp, but a wider project continues to be part of the trust’s vision . . .‘‘

She said the process was led by heritage architects, and had been formulated in consultation with stakeholders, including the Tuapeka community, camp descendants, and bodies including Heritage NZ, Clutha District Council and Clutha Development.

‘‘All have been strong supporters.

‘‘The trust continues to invite engagement with camp descendants and we also [have] a descendant representative on the trust.’’

Ms Ng said the trust continued to communicate effectively.

‘‘As a charitable trust, we welcome and are grateful for funding, for positive engagement and for active contribution from many volunteers who work together with us and our other stakeholders to . . . preserve this historical site for the benefit of our community.’’