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Demolition on the cards for renowned red barn

The derelict red barn on State Highway 2 north of Greytown. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The future is tenuous for the derelict red barn on the northern outskirts of Greytown.

The dilapidated structure on State Highway 2, one of the most photographed buildings in Wairarapa, has changed hands numerous times since its construction in the late 1800s.

But the new owners have indicated the building’s days are numbered, with a proposal to Cobblestones Museum.

Cobblestones Trust chair Chris Hume confirmed the owner had offered the museum the timber if the building were to be demolished.

“The idea being the wood would be used in our renovations at Cobblestones.”

Hume said the board had not had an opportunity to discuss the offer but said the decision would be made as a board.

The owners, who preferred to remain unnamed, said there were no immediate plans to demolish the building but said it was a question of health and safety.

“It’s what it boils down to for us. If it were 20 years ago, we would probably have a go at restoring it.”

However, much like other old, iconic structures in Wairarapa, the owner said the barn was plagued by unwanted visitors.

He said it was worrying finding empty alcohol bottles inside the barn.

“We are going to be liable if someone gets hurt.

“That’s the only reason we went to Cobblestones and said if it were to come down, would they want it.”

The owner, who purchased the 8.24-hectare property this year, said the intent was to farm it and build a new house.

“It’s on the market all the time. People say you can’t build on it, and you can’t do this, and you can’t do that, and you can.

“It’s a reasonable-sized section, and it is in a floodplain and needs to be managed, but a new farmhouse is possible.

He said there were no plans to subdivide.

A previous owner, Gary Johnston, bought the property in 2020 and expressed a desire to save the prime land from subdivision and the barn from demolition.

In May this year, the property was sold to the present owners for $750,000.

At the time, listing agent Dave Stephenson said the barn was “a very iconic piece of Wairarapa, and Greytown in particular” and has been the backdrop to countless wedding photos.

He said there would be “some very upset locals” if it were to be demolished.

Heritage Wairarapa chair Joseph Gillard said the rundown structure was not protected by heritage status.

“It is not on any register or on the combined district plan run by the council.”

He said a building from the 1890s was not a rarity in Wairarapa, with many in Greytown dating to the late 19th century, if not earlier.

“It’s the context [of the barn] that gives it interest. It’s in a very public position and has a cornice as high as an elephant’s eye.

“It’s charming.”

Gillard said the building had so far resisted the “temptations of nature” to blow it over.

“I would say there is a loss to society if it wasn’t there.”

The building, originally built as a cottage in the 1890s, is likely subject to the Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga Act 2014.

The act defines a place associated with human activity pre-1900 as an archaeological site, meaning authority must be obtained from Heritage New Zealand before any destruction or modification begins.

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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