Congratulations George Farrant of our Heritage Unit for the recognition he received in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list.
“George has given his life to preserving our rich historical past. He is the keeper of our built memory, a craftsman of extraordinary patience and love for past lives and places,” says Sir Bob Harvey, former Mayor of Waitakere City and current ‘Champion for Auckland – Investment’.
The citation announcing George as a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit noted the current Principal Heritage Advisor’s status as, “a national leader in heritage protection.”
It recognised his development of an innovative system establishing a process to identify and protect heritage buildings, items, trees, archaeology, geology and conservation zones in Auckland’s Hauraki Gulf islands. It also acknowledged his collaboration with iwi to identify places of cultural significance and leading negotiations with landowners to protect these sites.
George said he accepted the honour on behalf of present and former colleagues working in a diverse array of fields ranging from arboriculture to the construction industry and acknowledged the support of successive mayors, councillors, MPs and cabinet ministers.
“If I’ve managed to achieve anything significant in my heritage career it has been less through my personal efforts and much more by being in a position to guide, catalyse, and stimulate the achievements of many hundreds of supportive, skilled and committed professional colleagues,” he said.
Since taking up the role of Heritage Manager in 1982, George has overseen major restoration projects including the Civic Theatre, the Auckland Town Hall, the Auckland Art Gallery and The Pah Homestead.
Most recently, he led the removal of a large 1950s mosaic from the former site of the Odeon Theatre on Queen St. The ceramic tile mural was one of the last surviving New Zealand works by ex-pat architect Maurice K. Smith.
“For many years, George Farrant has spoken for Auckland’s past amid the often frenetic discussions engaged in about the region’s future development. Although he’ll no doubt take his recognition with characteristic modesty, the honour allows us all an opportunity to thank George for the quiet, diligent and knowledgeable service he has given to Auckland,” says Councillor Mike Lee, chair of the Heritage Advisory Panel.
Indeed, despite making the list over the weekend, George believes the test of any heritage advocate’s contribution is best judged well into the future.
“If we are eventually applauded in gratitude by those two or three generations from now, then we may truly have succeeded in identifying and preserving iconic objects and heritage places for our descendants,” he says.