Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Rainbow future for Wellington heritage buildings

Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga (HNZPT) is working with Wellington City Council to recognise queer history in the Capital’s heritage listings.

The Rainbow List project was created by HNZPT to acknowledge and improve the diversity of the New Zealand Heritage List/Rārangi Kōrero.

Of the 18 updated listings to date, 10 are in the Capital, including Carmen Rupe’s former Curio shop on Cuba Street, the Taj Mahal Public Toilets, The Thistle Inn, St Andrew’s on The Terrace, Lilburn House and the Queen Victoria Monument on Cambridge Terrace.

Senior Heritage Assessment Advisor and lead for the Rainbow List project at Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, Kerryn Pollock says the significance of the queer history varies from place to place, and some may seem unlikely on the surface, like the Queen Victoria statue between Kent and Cambridge Terraces.

“Statues of the queen were the target of gay and women’s liberation protests in the 1970s because they were potent symbols of colonisation and Victorian morality,” she said.

“Wellington’s Queen Victoria was the site of a demonstration in support of lesbian visibility on International Women’s Day in 1977 for precisely this reason. The statue listing now includes this story.”

Exterior of 288 Cuba Street formerly Carmen's Curios shop
288 Cuba St formerly Carmen’s Curio shop – Credit HNZPT

Heritage and history projects like the Rainbow List have well-being benefits for present-day communities, said Ms Pollock.

“They show that queer people have always been here, that the diverse rainbow communities of Aotearoa New Zealand have a lineage, a whakapapa. We do this by ensuring existing listings tell a place’s queer stories as this information comes to our attention, and by encouraging nominations for new listings where the queer history is significant.”

She said Wellington City Council had been a valuable collaborator and contributor to the project.

“We have shared our information with the cultural heritage team at Wellington City Council so the city’s heritage inventory can be updated, and have made use of the Council’s wonderful history resources, such as the Wellington City Archives online collection and the City Libraries’ Wellington City Recollect.”

“We are excited at the prospect of working more closely with Wellington City Council to highlight our city’s diverse and fascinating queer history through heritage places,” said Ms Pollock.

Council’s Cultural Heritage Manager, Mark Lindsay said the project demonstrates the strong commitment by HNZPT and Council to reveal and celebrate more of the diversity and depth of Wellington’s histories and heritage.

Exterior of Morgans Building on cnr of Cuba and Vivian Street
Morgan’s Building – Credit HNZPT

“We’ve been very fortunate to work with HNZPT to enrich our District Plan heritage listings with the Rainbow List information. It allows us to recognise and celebrate the Rainbow Community’s contribution to shaping Wellington as a tolerant and progressive society today,” he said.

“At the same time, it reminds us of the Rainbow Community’s historic struggle for the right to be recognised and accepted. Council is continuing to research the city’s diverse communities and cultures, and making these stories publicly available for everyone to read and enjoy.”

The Proposed District Plan consultation will open for submissions on 18 July until 12 September. The Proposed Plan will go live on wellington.govt.nz.

Heritage listings updated with queer history in Wellington to date:

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