This was a public lecture given by Sir Neil Cossons as public of the Symposium celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Dunedin Gasworks.  It was well attended by a well-heeled audience.  Very respectable.

On the 23rd of May 2007 the world population shifted to a percentage where the majority of humanity lives in cities.  It was a Wednesday.

We were told about Liverpool in decline after its industrial age.  A society’s industrial age can last four to five generations.  Just long enough to think that it will last forever.  Economies move away.  It comes as a shock.  They thought that they could build cathedrals.  Last absolution before the motorway!  Confession: 6 items or less!  Liverpool, one of my ancestral homelands, has discovered its heritage coolness.  It’s fragile, but it has an opportunity to recover itself.

I’m happy to hear that in the heritage industry archiving is crucial.  There is an oral record to be preserved.

We were told about the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site.  This covers ten locations across Cornwall.  It could be bigger than that.  Where there’s a hole there’s a Cornishman down it.  Did somebody tell Poldark?  There are distinctive Cornish mining buildings across Spain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  This world heritage site could prove to have a  global vision and people are talking, everywhere where Cornish miners created community, kept the faith, and buried their dead.

Then there are the places where people want to keep the look of their communities because they have an affection for the way it was.  Heritage teaches people to take the protest into their own hands and preserve living cohesive communities.  The alternative is development.

As our drinking patterns change pubs in Britain are closing down in hundreds per month.  Access to alcohol makes it easy to enjoy a few drinks together at home.

When St Pancras Station was renovated recently they had copies of William Barlow’s original plans to compare on site.  I did say that archives are important!  The vision was ambitious.  I considered what they had done alongside the renovations of Knox College.  Even though that was praised as successful I wonder if they showed the same vision.

Dunedin is in a good position to push ahead as a city with a living community heritage.  There are people interested to build, and to rebuild.  The restoration of several old banking buildings has shown this vision.  There needs to be recognition of the small end of the scale as well.  Innercity density will increase.  There are buildings that can be opened up for clothing and fashion, information technology and small scale manufacturing.

Looking around I think I saw a lot people interested in arts, heritage and architecture in Dunedin.  I don’t think I saw any of the local body election candidates in the audience.  Shame.  If they had been there they could have got something to think about.  And maybe a couple of extra votes.

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