Paul Thomas, joint-owner of the Broadway Tearooms, shares his insights on Reefton.
The revitalisation of Reefton has actually been a three-decade plus initiative, starting with the Reefton Community Company in the 1980s, then ‘Reefton Revival’ group in the mid 1990s that gave attention to building design and a strategic direction based on the heritage values of the town.
ITP Reefton Promotions then took over the baton and initiated a town vision that was predominantly based on the town’s main street, Broadway, to bring back the distinctive character of the street’s heritage shop buildings, many of which reflected part of their goldfields character of the 1870s and beyond, but had been modified over time to compromise their appearance. Born from the vision was the Reefton ‘Shop Front’ project.
The idea of the Reefton Shop Front project was to emphasise Reefton’s distinctiveness; make it stand out from other towns, to engender pride from local people in their town, to create a destination town for visitors and to develop the town economically.
The revitalisation of any place is not a sprint, but a marathon. This community-led initiative has met the challenge, it has endured the marathon and produced an inspirational result. Reefton is now renowned as a thriving and vibrant town, which stands out from the crowd in New Zealand.
As a consequence of the revitalisation local people now have great pride in their place. Visitors stream in, people desire to come and live, and people are upbeat about the town’s economy. Further investment into the town is being achieved such as the recent startup Reefton Distilling Co that opened in 2018. This business initiative puts a stamp of confidence on the town and its future.
As part of the shop front project team, I would say, nothing beats community-led initiatives. The investment by DWC into Reefton through the shop front project was an innovative model, a leap of faith at the time for community-led economic development, a leap of faith at the time for the investment made, but it has created immeasurable results that have ensured the strong possibility of the town having long-term sustainability.
That is a fantastic outcome.