After several years of planning, delays and fundraising drives, physical work on a project to restore the Phoenix Mill water wheel at its original site is finally under way.
In 2011, the 10m-diameter wheel was dismantled at its former site in Old Mill Rd and placed in storage in a historic freezer building, where its parts remained until late 2015 before being relocated.
About six years ago, former North Otago resident Richard Pringle offered to get a group together to restore the wheel, and the Phoenix Mill Restoration Trust was established.
Mr Pringle gave $10,000 to the project, while trustees also gave money and applied for funding from outside parties.
The original plan for the project was to restore the wheel using volunteer and expert labour, and the trust was given a lease for $1, which gave it the right to access the council-owned wheel.
While work did start, it was put on hold after Heritage NZ had concerns about the process.
The trust is now in the process of completing minor earthworks to construct concrete pads on which to build the wheel, and preparation work ahead of waterblasting and treating the metal components of the wheel has started.
HNZ has signed an agreement to proceed with the wheel’s reconstruction, and the trust has been advised it has to engage an archaeologist to complete the work that was started when the wheel was taken down.
The trust, comprising Carol Berry, Alan McLay and Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher, has secured a grant of $80,000 for the project, while the council granted $10,000 to it in September 2015.
In a 2017-18 annual plan submission to the council, the trust requested an additional $10,000 to support the reconstruction of the wheel.
The total budget for the project is $271,061, a figure the trust said included labour and materials that “we anticipate will be donated to the project”.
With those costs removed, the actual cost of the project was $99,075, but that did not include costs for the archaeologist, estimated to be between $5000 and $10,000.
As Mr Kircher is a trustee, he will not be involved in the decision whether to fund the project.
“It’s one of those things where it’s actually a bit of council equipment. I will help inform the council on it, but I won’t be voting on it.”
He said the trust was pleased the project had progressed.
“It’s another one of those things that’s taken an extraordinarily long time. Part of it’s been getting on to it and putting sorts of things together to the stage where we can do it.
“We’ve had some very generous support, both from volunteers and from funders.”
The wheel was installed in 1878 and used to power the mill. The mill building was removed in 1905.