Work to begin on preservation of Chinese settlement site

Ashburton District Council has committed up to $130,000 to the demolition, preservation and partial restoration of buildings at the former Chinese settlement on Allens Rd.

The work, which was agreed at today's Finance and Business Support Committee meeting, will be done during this financial year. It will include preservation, partial demolition and restoration of the site's heritage buildings and demolition of two non-heritage houses nearby. The committee also agreed that the Council's Chinese Settlement Working Group involve descendants of the market garden's original shareholders in determining a mutually agreed development plan for the whole site. This may include full restoration of two of the remaining buildings, landscape plans, walkways through the site, and the creation of a simple memorial to honour the original Chinese settlers.

The decisions follow recommendations from a heritage consultant to the Working Group and feedback from the families. This included a presentation at today's meeting from Robert King, a descendant of Charlie King, one of the market garden's original shareholders.

Mr King said those who had worked at the market garden were seen as "kind, generous, hardworking men." He said their families were welcomed here, and through the heritage site, their children, grandchildren and great-grand children wanted "to give back to the descendants of their first customers."

Ashburton District Council Community Relations Manager Vincie Billante said that after hearing from Mr King today, greater consideration needed to be given to "the spirit of reciprocity, generosity and gratitude" that was the intent of the families, in the original offer to gift the use of the land to the Ashburton community as a recreational reserve.

Ashburton District Council took up the guardianship of the 2.4ha heritage site in 2013, after negotiations with the families. The site includes the remnants of a Chinese market garden shop, accommodation for Chinese settlers who worked on the market garden, living spaces, food storage areas, animal shelters, a classroom, a laundry, and toilet and kitchen facilities.​

The site has been assessed as having a high physical and heritage value, and medium-high cultural value. Remaining buildings and the public pig oven, from the time it was a Chinese market garden, make it a unique heritage site in
New Zealand.​

Page reviewed: 27 Jul 2017 5:02pm