The recent vandalism of historic buildings at Macetown,
near Arrowtown, brought back memories for Nelson Cross, who
worked on restoring the gold mining era relics more than 20
Nelson Cross felt an enormous responsibility was placed on
his shoulders when he was charged with restoring historic
buildings in Macetown.
The former Department of Lands and Survey worker tackled the
project over three long, hot summers in the mid-1980s, and
today looks back on that project with satisfaction and fond
Mr Cross, who now lives in Kaka Point, recalls those three
summers as the best of his life, and a project that lingers
happily in the memory banks, despite recent vandalism at the
site, 16km up the Arrow River from Arrowtown.
"There are always going to be some idiots who have access to
four-wheel-drives who will go up and cause trouble. It was
His job, more than 20 years ago, was to restore and stabilise
buildings on the site, stone by stone, in a meticulous and
careful manner that did not cheat history and gave visitors
an authentic experience.
It was a lonely job at times. Mr Cross camped onsite for
weeks with just his trusty Labrador dog for company, but
knowing he was charged with "getting it just right" kept him
from ever becoming bored or disillusioned with the job.
"It was quite major on your own, but I prided myself on
getting it 100% right," he said this week.
Mr Cross said it was not like any other restoration project.
The Macetown job required careful homework and ensuring every
piece went in exactly the right place.
Almost all the original stones that had fallen off the
cottages were used again, although about two loads of gravel
were taken from the nearby Arrow River.
"It really was like a jigsaw puzzle. There was a lot of
careful work involved."
Mr Cross said he felt "a heavy responsibility" with the job
and admitted he learnt plenty as he went.
He followed a reconstruction principle used by the New
Zealand Historic Places Trust, and used clear and accurate
historical records, he said.
Without wanting to reveal too much, Mr Cross said the job
turned interesting, especially at nights, when he heard music
and other sounds coming from the cottages.
"I'm not a great believer in spirits or ghosts or anything
like that, but . . ." Mr Cross said.
The job could be lonely at times, but he never regretted
taking on what turned out to be his most rewarding and
He worked by three rules - to preserve, maintain and
"And I think I got it pretty right," he said.
Mr Cross said he felt great personal satisfaction with his
efforts when he finished.
Although he has not returned for about 10 years, Macetown
will always be a part of him, he believes.
And although he doesn't own the site, his months of sweaty
toil left a permanent mark on him.
"I have this feeling, not of ownership, but a kinship with
"It's one of my favourite places."