Ongoing benefits of cultural recovery package are evident at Edwin Fox heritage project in Picton

  • Judith Tizard
Arts, Culture and Heritage

The government’s Cultural Recovery Package continues to bring cultural and economic benefits to New Zealand, says Associate Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Judith Tizard.

Judith Tizard officiates at the opening of the roof over the Edwin Fox preservation project at Dunbar Wharf in Picton tomorrow. The Edwin Fox is an East Indiament ship, built in India in 1853 for trading purposes. It is the only surviving ship of its type in the world.

It served as a trading ship between Europe and Asia, carried troops to the Crimean War in 1854, sailed between England and Fremantle, Australia in 1858, and made eight migrant voyages to New Zealand from 1873 until 1880, when it was refitted as a refrigeration ship for New Zealand’s burgeoning frozen meat trade.

The Edwin Fox Society received $300,000 in the government’s Cultural Recovery Package towards the preservation of the historic sailing ship. The society was formed to conserve the remains of the ship on the Picton foreshore.

The Cultural Recovery Package funds helped to meet the cost of building a roof over the dry-dock to prevent the damaging effects of rain and sun on the timbers of the ship.

“As a migrant ship of historical significance, Edwin Fox gives us valuable insights into our heritage, and it also offers great economic potential as a tourist attraction for Marlborough,” says Judith Tizard.

“For those reasons, the Edwin Fox project is a good example of why the government made a significant investment arts, culture and heritage. A year and a half on, the Cultural Recovery Package is doing what we wanted it to do - promoting exciting, innovative arts and heritage projects and cultural products that enhance New Zealand’s identity, provide sustainable employment and economic growth.”

Edwin Fox Society executive chairman Tony Mortiboy says the roof development marks a milestone in the Edwin Fox preservation. “The ship is now safe and secure, so we can get on with the treatment of the timber before it deteriorates further.

“From a tourism point of view, it now means we have an all-weather visitor attraction in Picton. We can also open at night because Marlborough District Council has provided funds for floodlights.

“Visitors can go out onto the ship and right down to the keel of it. It’s quite awesome, particularly at night, as it sets quite a mood down there – the age of the ship really tells at night.”

In the past year, the Edwin Fox received 40,000 visitors. The society has further plans to launch a visitor and educational programme which will develop the Edwin Fox preservation project into a world-class maritime heritage experience. In 2003, the society will celebrate the 150th Anniversary of the Edwin Fox.

“We have a complete record of all the passenger lists, and a steadily expanding list of the descendents of those migrants. One of the highlights of 2003 will be a rather unusual family reunion, when we get as many descendants as we can to Picton as a celebration,” says Tony Mortiboy.