Community funding needed to preserve Dacre history

First published on June 18th at Localmatters.

Felicity Goodyear-Smith has almost completed a comprehensive history of Dacre Cottage and the Weiti Block that took a year of research. But funding is needed to get it on the shelves.

GP and academic, Professor Felicity Goodyear-Smith says she was drawn to the topic of Dacre Cottage and the Weiti Block by a love of kayaking and walking in that area.

When she saw a box of material that Dacre Reserve management committee chair Pete Townend had in his garage, she took a closer look.

Inside were old Minutes, newspaper clippings and documents.

“I was in my element,” Goodyear-Smith says. “I love looking through historical documents and making sense of them – it’s a joy.”

She began researching the area, starting with Ranulph Dacre, who built Dacre Cottage, and his family of 11 children. Dacre made and lost many fortunes in a working life that had numerous twists and turns, including a stint trying to export pounamu to China.

Around a year later, a history of not only the Dacre family and the cottage, but the Weiti Block, the environment, interactions with iwi and many notable early New Zealanders, is almost complete.

Goodyear-Smith charts the history of the cottage, built in 1855 (Auckland’s second oldest building), and now well cared for by volunteers, from its days as a farmhouse to becoming derelict, being restored, then derelict again; as well as Townend’s involvement as a key guardian from 2005, which continues today.

The Weiti Block history she documents includes a plan in the 1980s by NZ Forest Products to plant pines and build 150 homes in an exclusive Dacres Crest development, which did not proceed because of the 1987 stock market crash.

The environment remains at the core of the book – Goodyear-Smith loves the area and is concerned at the degradation caused by development and predation, dating back to the first logging of kauri.

Her work on the book has been voluntary, and a labour of love.

“It’s a beautiful and special part of Auckland and it’s being destroyed,” she says. “This history will hopefully be of interest to, and help, those who care for the area, as I do.”

The Dacre Reserve management committee is raising funds to cover production and printing costs of around $17,000.

Options to support the project include donating at least $100 and getting your name acknowledged in the book, as well as a copy.

The book is called Dacre Cottage & the Weiti Block: Preserving our Heritage. All proceeds of sale will go to the committee.

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