Oamaru Heritage Precinct workshop : future thinking for a thriving community

Oamaru Heritage Precinct workshop: future thinking for a thriving community

In February this year, a workshop was held in Oamaru to bring together heritage tourism stakeholders to explore future options for the town and its heritage precinct. Attendees included tenants from the heritage precinct, and members of the Waitaki District Council and Whitestone Civic Trust.

Funded by QuakeCoRE, the participatory decision-support workshop was run by Dr Caroline Orchiston and post-graduate student Will Stovall, from the University of Otago, in conjunction with Tracy Hatton, from Resilient Organisations.

Participants were invited to put aside their own agendas and consider the ‘bigger picture’ issues for Oamaru, with the overarching goal of creating ‘a thriving community for all’.

They were presented with five hypothetical projects that could benefit Oamaru. The projects were: the pedestrianisation of Harbour Street; the extension of the railway line; the installation of a proposed zipline; gaining world heritage status for Oamaru; and earthquake strengthening of heritage buildings.

The projects were then tested against three hypothetical situations to help determine which would stand up best against the scenarios if they happened in the near future.  The scenarios discussed among stakeholders included the decline of tourism in Oamaru, what would happen to the projects if a devastating earthquake struck the town, and how the projects would run if the tourism market remained the same.  Results showed that stakeholders preferred the pedestrianisation of Harbour Street and Oamaru pushing for world heritage status.

Although the intent of the workshop was not to reach any actual decisions, the project scores that emerged from the workshop provide Oamaru decision-makers with potentially interesting insights into how this group of participants perceived the future opportunities for Oamaru. Feedback from participants suggests that the structured process was very useful in working towards achieving a consensus and helping them to understand how collective decision-making can be achieved and the rationale behind decisions.