Otago Daily Times, 18 May 2023

The restoration of Central Otago landmark Earnscleugh Castle inched forward yesterday with a resource consent hearing, in Alexandra, regarding the plastering of the building.

The Central Otago District Council hearings panel, which was comprised of Crs Neil Gillespie, Martin McPherson and Ian Cooney, heard the evidence and reserved their decision.

There were 95 submissions made in response to the public notification of the resource consent, all in support. Five people addressed the panel yesterday to support their submission.

The former homestead was constructed in 1920, and never completed when the then-owner ran into financial difficulties.

Marco Creemers outlined his 35-year career working with, and winning awards for managing, upgrading and rebuilding heritage and character properties.

He and Ryan Sanders had been searching for eight years for property. As soon as they got halfway down the drive at Earnscleugh Castle they knew that was where they wanted to be, he said.

Mr Sanders said the Castle was to be a home not a hotel. They planned to run a bed and breakfast business with a maximum of six guests to avoid intrusive internal work.

‘‘We are super-excited about putting down roots and living the next part of our lives in Central Otago.’’

The resource consent had delayed their plans and meant there would be an extra year without an income from the property. Plans to restore the stables on the property were the ‘‘victim’’ of the resource consent process, Mr Creemers said.

Their architect Richard Naish said the project would ultimately cost $2 million-$3 million.

‘‘I don’t think people realise how much of an investment this is. It’s quite rare to have someone with the will and ability to do a project like this.’’

Much of the discussion centred on the amount of brick work that should be left uncovered to show how the building had looked since it was built in 1920.

Council heritage expert consultant Robin Miller said he wanted to see a larger amount unfinished than was proposed. The fact the plaster had not been added reflected the history of the area and the rabbit plague that diminished the-then owner’s fortunes.

The applicants’ brick specialist John Oliver said the brick was not suitable for exterior exposure and allowed damp to enter the house. In order for the house to be weathertight the plaster needed to be added.

Cr Gillespie asked if leaving an uncovered area of brick risked undoing the good done by plastering the rest of the building.

Planner Jeff Brown, for the applicants, said a seal would be added around the windows, potentially timber or plaster matched to the brick colour, to keep them weatherproofed.

Last week, council planner Olivia Stirling said while the colour, ‘‘half-sour dough’’, selected for the plaster exceeded the permitted light reflective value it was sympathetic to the heritage values of the building and would not detract from the landscape values.

The panel reserved its decision.