Irrigation history explained on panel

Detailed information about historical irrigation steps in the Dunstan will be made accessible for residents and visitors with a new heritage panel installed on Monday.

The new panel, along Springvale Rd outside Alexandra, is the third in a series of 12 that are part of Promote Dunstan's self-drive heritage trail to promote the area's historical legacy, which includes Clyde, Alexandra and surrounds.

The trail covers Clyde Cemetery, St Bathans, Moa Creek, Galloway Station, Alexandra Bridge, Clyde, and historic features on Earnscleugh Rd.

Two of the panels are already installed at the old Alexandra bridge and Clyde cemetery.

Central Otago District Arts Trust co-ordinator Maxine Williams designed the panels and said they were about educating the community and visitors about the heritage of the area. People who lived in the area knew of the irrigation steps but did not know the history behind them.

''If I'm interested, I am sure other people will be,'' she said.

Although the irrigation steps were similar to the water races gold-miners operated, they were used to irrigate surrounding farms during the warmer months, she said.

Promote Dunstan committee member Karin Bowen said she would like to see a stile installed in the future to allow visitors to get a close-up view of the steps when they were in flow.

One side of the irrigation water race was on private land, while the other was on Central Otago District Council land.

The concrete irrigation network began construction in 1917 and was ''stepped and curved'' to reduce the force of the flowing water and prevented erosion of surrounding land, Ms Bowen said.

The panels were researched and written by Promote Dunstan secretary Louise Joyce.

The committee had budgeted $20,000 for the project, which came from the proceeds made at the Clyde Wine and Food Harvest Festival, also organised by the committee.

Ms Williams said she worked with Promote Dunstan for ''quite a few years'' and enjoyed that experience.

''I love the fact that they are passionate about Central Otago as well,'' she said.

Nine more heritage information panels would be installed by the end of the year.

liam.cavanagh@odt.co.nz

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