The Port Chalmers Foundry Society has embarked on a major fund-raising drive,
firstly to replace the roof and strengthen the building against earthquakes, then to
design and build a multipurpose community centre with arts and culture at its heart.
The bones of the project are in place, supported by Dunedin City Council, which has
set aside $700,000 for the essential first steps, stabilising the cliff behind the building
and removing asbestos. The land and building will always be owned by the people of
Otepoti-Dunedin, under the stewardship of the Foundry Society. The plan has strong
public support – when the council asked residents what should be done with the
building, 72 per cent supported community use.
A unique drawcard
As an arts incubator, the Foundry will offer affordable studios and rehearsal space to
new and emerging visual and performance artists while building a community of
supporters across the motu.
A restored main building, with a contemporary addition at the southern end, will host
performances, exhibitions, sculptural installations, conferences, markets, community
gatherings and an artist-in-residence. The story of the site, starting with its use by
Maori as a waka mooring, will be depicted with audio-visual and virtual reality
presentations, and large wall panels with historic photos from the Hocken Library and
the Port Chalmers Maritime Museum.
This broad offering in one centre is understood to be unique in Aotearoa-New
Zealand and will be strong a drawcard for locals and tourists, especially in the cruise-
Historic industrial sites are a tourist magnet. Heritage expert Sir Neil Cossons,
formerly chief UK Government adviser on industrial museums, has visited Port
Chalmers and been briefed on the project – he describes buildings like the Foundry
as “gems worth preserving”.
Enterprise Dunedin Director John Christie describes heritage architecture as a
unique selling point that offers visitors an insight into Otepoti-Dunedin’s rich past.