Looking out to preserve history
A community effort to restore a historical and iconic viewing spot has been recognised at the recent Canterbury Heritage Awards.
The Balmoral Fire Lookout was awarded joint first place alongside The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora, in the ‘Public Realm Saved and Restored’ category.
Hawarden Waikari Lions Club members have dedicated numerous hours to the restoration of the Lookout, which was built in 1940 to accommodate a staff member employed to keep watch and report on any fire risks in the Balmoral Forest.
Attending the Awards was the Governance group for the Lookout restoration project which included Hurunui District Council’s (HDC) Mayor Marie Black, and Hawarden Waikari Lions Club members David Hislop and Gary McCracken.
“It was a great win; we were up against some incredible historical buildings. A lot of hard work was put into preserving the area, so it was great to be acknowledged,” said David.
The project started seven years ago when the Club received $3,000 from HDC’s Heritage Fund.
“The funding we received from HDC was the catalyst for the project… it was put towards information boards to make the history known…. That was our starting point.”
Further funding provided by the Department of Conservation, the Amuri Lions Club, Amuri Irrigation Company, Amberley Lions Club and Waipara County Historical Society allowed the Club to give the area and the Lookout itself a much-needed revamp.
“It looked like it was ready to come down, it was vandalised and weathered… being the only wooden Lookout left in Canterbury, it was important that we look after it.”
David explained that the location itself gives locals the ability to immerse themselves in history, while also appreciating the district’s beauty.
Due to wildfires in state forests becoming extremely common, 12 of these lookouts were built throughout Canterbury from 1922 onward, of which only four remain.
“There is a lot of history to soak up, the area is visited by locals regularly… The view really is beautiful, you can see the diversity of the district, from our rivers to our farmland. It’s a great place to clear the mind.”