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New world heritage site recommended for Dunedin city

New world heritage site recommended for Dunedin city
October 23, 2009

An expert report has recommended that Dunedin should become a World Heritage Site due to its "astonishingly well-preserved architecture".

Senior museum consultant Dr Rodney Wilson believes that Dunedin is a "special and unique heritage site" in a report released under the New Zealand Official Information Act.

Dr Wilson went on to say the city's museums and public art gallery were resources of national significance, stating "we suggest that Dunedin is the best preserved city from Victorian times to the 1940s, and that this status should be recognised", adding that Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland were "faint shadows of Dunedin with respect to its historical urban environment".

Dr Wilson described the cityscape as without parallel in New Zealand and Australia, saying "nowhere else on either side of the Tasman was there a town or city as well preserved."

Dunedin was built on wealth created by the Otago gold rush. The Otago Settlers Museum is the best place to learn about those who settled in Dunedin from early Maori to Chinese gold miners and Scottish founders.

The Scots founded Dunedin in 1848 with plans to turn it into 'New Edinburgh'. The town map is based on the Scottish city and the word Dunedin is Gaelic for Edinburgh.

On a walking tour of the city visitors see heritage sites such as First Church which was built by the Scots in response to the Free Church movement. Saint Paul's Cathedral in the town centre was the first parish church built in 1862 and the University of Otago is New Zealandâs first University built in 1869.

From the Flemish Renaissance railway station visitors can take the Taieri Gorge Railway into Central Otago where gold was transported from. The station itself is said to be New Zealand's most photographed building.

Another highlight for visitors to Dunedin is Larnach Castle. The castle was built by William Larnach who came to Dunedin from Melbourne to manage the Bank of Otago in 1867 (seven years after gold was discovered). Visitors will learn about Larnach's sorted love life, Otago's rich heritage and the castle restoration project.

Dr Wilson said Dunedin should become a World Heritage Site just as Quito, Ecuador had because of the town's best preserved example of Spanish colonial architecture in the Americas.

Dr Wilson was nominated to be one of the 'ten outstanding New Zealanders' by the New Zealand Herald in 2006. Once the director of the Auckland Museum he established the New Zealand National Maritime Museum from scratch. He also directed the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne and concluded the studies which led to the redevelopment of the Gallery in St Kilda Road and at Federation Square.

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Images: Dunedin Railway Station and Larnach Castle.

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