DOC staff in Hokitika could have been housed for a song a few years ago – now it will cost us $22 million

“Going for a song” was how the former Hokitika government building known as Seddon House was advertised in 2014.

According to an NBR report at that time, Barfoot & Thompson was listing Seddon House at $295,000, down from $1.2 million in 2008.  It had a rateable value of $340,000 and had last changed hands in 2002 for $90,000.

Its value today?  We can only guess, but Hokitika has been described as “the most affordable” suburb in the Westland district and has a median house price of $274,700.

We checked out those property figures after learning the government has earmarked Seddon House in Hokitika (“once a hub for government on the West Coast”) for government use once again.

A hub for government sounds impressive, although the press statement referred only to DOC staff  working from there.

A brick, timber and corrugated iron construction, Seddon House is a Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero.  It will undergo seismic strengthening and be refitted for use as offices for the Department of Conservation (DOC), which will lease the building.

So how much does it cost to find new office space for around 85 DOC staff?

Brace for a nasty surprise, dear taxpayer.

“Today we’re announcing$22 million investment from the Government’s $3 billion infrastructure fund for shovel ready projects for the purchase and restoration of Seddon House in the heart of Hokitika” said Minister for Rural Communities and West Coast-Tasman MP Damien O’Connor.  

At first blush, we figured the government probably could buy the whole of Hokitika for that money.

Eighty houses, anyway, when we did our sums.

According to the 2018 New Zealand Census, the usually-resident population of the Hokitika urban area was 2,892, a decrease of 75 people since 2013.

The Beehive statement explained:

“This investment into Hokitika demonstrates the Government’s commitment to the West Coast.  The restoration of this building will preserve a prominent heritage feature which is loved and admired by locals and visitors. 

“Restoration of this building has been talked about for years, this commitment means it will now happen,” said Damien O’Connor. 

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga will own and manage the Edwardian Baroque style building, also known as the Government Buildings and Courthouse, which was built between 1907 and 1914.

The Beehive press statement described it as a significant landmark in Hokitika and the largest and grandest historical building in downtown Hokitika.

Downtown Hokitika?  Are there other parts to the town”

Several functions of government had operated out of the building before it became privately owned in 1994.

It was the location of several government departments over a period of 80 years and was a key administrative centre for the whole of the West Coast.

A brick, timber and corrugated iron construction, Seddon House is a Category 1 historic place on the New Zealand Heritage List Rārangi Kōrero.  It will undergo seismic strengthening and be refitted for use as offices for the Department of Conservation (DOC), which will lease the building.

Other ministers got in on the Beehive ballyhoo:

“I am proud to be part of a government restoring this Hokitika treasure, designed by the same architect as Parliament House, John Campbell, for use by DOC in the centre of town. This is true regional development,” said Associate Minister of Finance David Parker.

“Historic buildings are preserved when they have a use and a purpose. I look forward to the building once again being a hub for government on the West Coast, with a significant government purpose – the stewardship of conservation lands and treasured species operating from this site. I’m pleased that the 85 Department of Conservation permanent staff based in Hokitika will remain in the heart of the town” said Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage.

Seddon House and the Seddon Statue will join 44 other properties Heritage New Zealand cares for nationwide on behalf of the public.  Other properties include the Kerikeri Mission Complex in Northland, Old Government Buildings in Wellington, Kate Sheppard House in Christchurch and the birthplace of our frozen meat industry, Totara Estate near Oamaru.

Conservation land makes up over 83% of the total area of the West Coast.

The writer of the press statement then enthused:

“Relocating DOC to this location upholds the mana of public land and the importance of conservation in the region.”

Other ministers were busy distributing largess at the weekend and this morning, too:

  • Occupiers of unit and apartments living in earthquake-prone buildings can apply for financial support to fix their homes. The Residential Earthquake-Prone Building Financial Assistance Scheme will help unit owners facing financial hardship over earthquake strengthening costs. The money will be delivered through Kāinga Ora – Homes and Communities, with eligible unit owner-occupiers able to borrow up to $250,000.
  • Māori development projects around the country will receive a total of $18.8 million from the Provincial Growth Fund to create infrastructure and permanent jobs. These projects will support economic development in Northland, Bay of Plenty, Tairawhiti, Manawatū-Whanganui, Waikato and Southland.
  • The Kii Tahi food-processing company will receive a Provincial Growth Fund (PGF) loan of $1.2 million and $184,572 grant to expand its operations in Whanganui.

A Kii Tahi document we found on the PGF site gives an idea of the tribal role and company structure.  It mentions the Te Kaahui o Rauru Trust, the Post Settlement Governance Entity of Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi iwi. ·

Te Pataaka o Rauru Limited is the asset holdings company, 100% owned by the trust.  And Kii Tahi Limited is a subsidiary company, 100% owned by Te Paataka o Rauru.

All entities have charitable trust status [which suggests they pay no taxes, giving  them a competitive advantage over companies that must pay the taxes that fill the PGF trough].

Kii Tahi Limited was started in 2003 under the Te Puni Kokiri-funded Local Level Solutions Initiative to create employment in economically depressed areas. Its main activity is a native plant nursery and landcare service and it has operated for many years with the financial support of the trust to keep people in employment.

In 2017, Kii Tahi Limited adopted a diversification strategy to expand the operations into growing food and creating high value food and beverage products to build a more financially sustainable business and create new jobs.  It owns beehives and produces maanuka honey and has created a new range of superfood products under the brand name Kaitahi – The Native Superfood Company

Jones enthused that Whanganui will benefit from the PGF investment which will help the local food-processing company increase production and create jobs.

He said Kii Tahi produces native food plants which are used in its Kaitahi food and beverage enterprise.

Construction of the new facilities will provide building jobs and, once completed, there will be six further jobs on the production line. It is expected to add another shift eventually, creating another six jobs.

An estimated further 25 part-time jobs will result from supplying Kii Tahi with the raw products it needs for its innovative food products.

Shane Jones said Kii Tahi occupied a unique place in the market.

“Kii Tahi, through Kaitahi, uses native New Zealand ingredients such as kawakawa, kumara, puha and honey in its award-winning products.”

Native honey?

We consulted New Zealand History and learned:

Mary Bumby, the sister of a Methodist missionary, was probably the person who introduced honey bees to New Zealand. She brought two hives ashore when she landed at the Mangungu Mission Station at Hokianga in March 1839.

While New Zealand had two native species of bees, neither was suitable for producing honey. Reverend Richard Taylor, Eliza Hobson, James Busby and William Cotton were all early hive owners. In 1848 Cotton wrote a manual for New Zealand beekeepers, describing the basics of bee husbandry and production of honey.

But Maori seem to have been the first to make a buck from the honey produced by these foreign imports.

The New Zealand bush proved a hospitable place for bees, and the number of wild colonies multiplied rapidly, especially in the Bay of Islands. Isaac Hopkins, regarded as the father of beekeeping in New Zealand, observed that by the 1860s bee nests in the bush were plentiful, and considerable quantities of honey were being sold by Māori – the country’s first commercial beekeepers.

Oh – before we sign off on this post let it be noted that the new Kii Tahi build was originally planned for the South Taranaki town of Waverley, but Ngaa Rauru Kiitahi decided to move it to Whanganui which would better serve its members, many of whom live there.

“It is a loss for Waverley but by locating the factory in Whanganui, there is better access to infrastructure and support businesses,” Shane Jones said.

Too bad for Waverley, eh?

Latest from the Beehive

28 SEPTEMBER 2020

Māori development receives funding

Māori development projects across the country will receive a total of $18.8 million from the Provincial Growth Fund that will create infrastructure and permanent jobs, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones announced today.

Hand-up for owners of earthquake-prone units

From today, owner-occupiers of unit and apartments living in earthquake-prone buildings can apply for financial support to fix their homes, Minister for Building and Construction Je

 PGF backing successful Māori enterprise

Whanganui will benefit from a Provincial Growth Fund investment in a local food-processing company which will help the company increase production and create jobs, Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones says.

26 SEPTEMBER 2020

Hokitika Landmark earmarked for $22m restoration

Seddon House in Hokitika, once a hub for government on the West Coast, has been earmarked for government use once again.

UPDATE:   We have been advised our headline suggests the Government is spending $22m buying Seddon House when it could’ve been purchased ‘for a song’ some years ago.

A Beehive PR staffer tells us:

This is a misleading headline. The vast bulk of the $22m is going towards the restoration of building with only $400k on the actual purchase.

I realise this detail wasn’t included in the PR on the website (I’ll look to update it) but was in the background notes which went with the full release to the Greystar on Saturday.

One thought on “DOC staff in Hokitika could have been housed for a song a few years ago – now it will cost us $22 million

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.