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Close to completion ... Restoration work on the historic Phoenix Mill water wheel in Oamaru is close to completion. PHOTO: DANIEL BIRCHFIELD

It is possible a project to restore Oamaru’s historic Phoenix Mill water wheel at its original Old Mill Rd site will be completed next month, after several years of planning and restoration work.

First installed 140 years ago, the wheel is being given a new lease of life thanks to the Phoenix Mill Restoration Trust, which was established by former North Otago resident Richard Pringle about seven years ago.

Work to restore the 10m-diameter wheel, being carried out by volunteers, started in early June and had progressed well, Waitaki Mayor and trustee Gary Kircher said.

“The wheel itself is getting close to completion. We’ve got the large cog attached to the side of it and we’re not too far from being able to lift it.”

When completed, the wheel will be lowered into a 4m-deep stone pit, which will feature some of the original stonework and will be lined with timber and reinforced with steel.

While the wheel would be able to be turned, that would only be done for maintenance purposes, Mr Kircher said.

“To have it working again would require replacing too much of the original material, and from Heritage New Zealand’s perspective, they’re not keen for that to happen.

“They would rather we have as much of it original as possible. It will be able to turn, but it won’t be turning by water.”

The final part of the project will involve landscaping and the development of a car park area, decking and a walkway. The actual cost of the project is just over $99,000.

The trust secured an $80,000 grant to fund it, and the Waitaki District Council committed $10,000 in September 2015 and another $10,000 as part of its 2017-18 annual plan. Mr Kircher was not involved in the decision-making process around council funding.

The wheel was installed in 1878 and used to power the mill. The mill building was removed in 1905. – Otago Daily Times