On March 19, 2014 Westpac held a cocktail event to celebrate its reopening after the renovation of their new, relocated site in Beach Street, Levuka. The renovation and refurbishment of the building owned by Mr Kinman Fong, started on December 16 2013 and is part of an ambitious plan to regain some of Levuka’s former glory.
The town is aiming at the restoration of a large number of buildings to try and save the existing colonial architecture which gives Levuka its historic character, and which was also the basis of their hard-won World Heritage status. It is also expected that a well-kept World Heritage town will attract more tourists and generate more revenue. Therefore, it is very important for Levuka to promote and encourage the preservation and maintenance of its historic buildings.
Westpac’s links with Levuka date back more than a century. In June 1909 their second branch in Fiji was opened with Mr Buchanan as branch manager. The first branch had already opened in Suva in 1901. The current building at Levuka is named after the banks original name Bank of New South Wales, which is proudly displayed on the front of the building. Some archival artefacts related to the company’s past will be on permanent display in two showcases.
Since 1909 the building has been altered and modified and has been extensively restored in close cooperation with the National Trust. The aim was to protect its value as a national and cultural heritage as responsibly as possible, while at the same time making the bank ready for modern-day use.
The renovation implied color research in order to retrieve the original color scheme of the building. This color research revealed two shades of colonial cream, but eventually two of the Westpac branch colors, a beige and a more greyish beige were chosen and this appeared to be a good choice.
The front doors needed two small windows, so therefore, the original doors were replicated and stored for future use, if any. The ATM machine was sympathetically and conveniently integrated in the shop window.
Levuka is looking forward to receiving more urgently-needed investments, such as the Westpac project and hopes to see more buildings being brought up to a standard which will make Levuka a place of interest for tourists for many years to come because of its historic interest and its perfect state of preservation.
Bart van Aller
Built Heritage Advisor
National trust of Fiji