Water wheel to get its turn


A plan is in place to restore Oamaru’s historic Phoenix Flour Mill water wheel, which has sat in storage for nearly five years.
In 2011, the 10m-diameter wheel was dismantled at its former site on Old Mill Rd and placed in storage in a historic freezer building, where its parts remained until late 2015.
However, the 130-year-old council-owned building was closed due to safety concerns in August, and the wheel’s parts were moved to a safer area near the building.
Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher did not reveal the exact nature of the restoration plan but said it was to be carried out under the guidance of Heritage New Zealand (HNZ).
“Basically, we have sorted out a bit of a restoration plan. I believe it has been signed off by HNZ. It sets out how we would go about moving it and putting it back together in a heritage-friendly manner.”About five years ago, former North Otago resident Richard Pringle offered to get a group together to restore the wheel and an independent 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.
An archaeological assessment was made and a restoration plan designed. However, changes were made to the agreement and a new plan was put in place.
While work at the then site of the water wheel started with approval from the council’s property manager and HNZ, volunteers working on the project, including an engineer, a crane operator and a building and plant demolition expert, dismantled the bulk of the wheel based on the revised plan.
HNZ took issue with the process and a decision was made to move the wheel to the freezer building.
Mr Kircher acknowledged “shortcuts” were taken when the wheel was dismantled in 2011.
“We want to have good plans in terms of how we put it back together, what materials are used and so on,” Mr Kircher said.
In September, the council allocated $10,000 to the project.
While exact costs were not yet known, Mr Kircher said the Phoenix Mill Restoration Trust would have to apply to charitable trusts to fund it.
The funds the trust had already raised were used to develop the restoration plan.
Mr Kircher said, despite speculation, the wheel would return to its former home.
“There are elements that will be reconstructed off-site … it will be going back on-site. It won’t be going anywhere else.”It is not known when work will start.
The wheel was installed in 1878 and used to power the mill. The mill building was removed in 1905.
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