Otago Daily Times
11 May, 2023

A Council planner has given the thumbs-up to the planned renovations to the Earnscleugh Station homestead.

A Central Otago District Council hearing is set to take place in Alexandra next Monday about resource consents being sought by the owners of the homestead.

Marco Creemers and Ryan Sanders bought the former Earnscleugh homestead, also known as Spain’s Folly and now called Earnscleugh Castle, about a year and a-half ago.

The building, constructed in 1920, was never completed as intended with a roughcast (plaster) exterior. The concrete columns at the front and the balustrade lining the roof were also left unfinished.

The couple proposed to undertake alterations to the exterior of the homestead building, by rendering the majority of the presently brick exterior, and leaving a small area on the southern elevation unrendered.

The plaster colour was proposed to be sour dough, a cream colour which has a light reflectivity value (LRV) of about 64%.

The proposed plastering would cost more than $550,000, and get the house to what it was supposed to look like when first built.

They intended to create an upmarket bed and breakfast business offering accommodation to a maximum of six guests at a time.

There were 95 submissions on the consent, all of them in favour of the proposal.

The colour of the external render ‘‘half sour dough’’ was selected in accordance with the colour study undertaken for heritage buildings in Clyde, Alexandra and Ophir. Although the proposed colour was considered appropriate from a heritage perspective, the colour would result in a colour palette breach as it had a LRV exceeding the permitted 38% LRV as stipulated in the district plan.

Council planning consultant Olivia Stirling said the colour breach would be barely visible from outside of the site, because of the discrete location of the building towards the rear of the site, and its limited visibility from Earnscleugh Road due to the established vegetation.

‘‘Overall, I consider the colour of the building is appropriate as it is sympathetic to the heritage values of the building and will not detract from the landscape values experienced in the wider environment,’’ she wrote in her report.

The mitigation measures proposed would offset any potential adverse effects of undertaking the external plastering of the homestead.

The homestead was never properly finished due to a depression after World War 1 which led to a lack of funds, so it was a rare example of a building of that era in its current state.

The report said with the number of submissions received, the building had significant community appreciation.

The building contributed to the cultural wellbeing of the community by providing a tangible record of its heritage. The homestead building also contributed to the community’s visual sense of place, the report said.

The district plan acknowledged historic heritage made Central Otago attractive to visitors from other parts of New Zealand and from overseas.

The proposed works would ensure the longevity of the building and its reuse as a residence and accommodation facility, the report said.

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT) adviser Robin Miller, who is an experienced building surveyor, said the bricks used on the exterior walls were durable with few decay problems.

But repointing the bricks was said to be not viable by the applicants.

Ms Stirling said when considering the adaptive reuse of the building, the maintenance of an unrendered area of the building, the completion of the building as was intended by the original design, the resulting weather-tightness and seismic strengthening, the unconditional written approval of HNZPT and the mitigation measures as proposed, it was evident any loss in heritage value as a result of the proposed rendering was appropriate.

‘‘It is evident throughout Section 14 of the district plan that alternative uses of the building should be encouraged, given that the adaptive reuse of heritage buildings is generally the most positive way of conserving their value.’’