Water wheel of mill nears restoration

The Phoenix Mill water wheel at the Mill Rd reserve in Oamaru in 2011. Photo by David Bruce.
The Phoenix Mill water wheel at the Mill Rd reserve in Oamaru in 2011. Photo by David Bruce.
A $10,000 grant has been secured by the Phoenix Mill Restoration Trust from the Waitaki District Council to proceed with the trust's plan to restore the former mill's historic water wheel.

The 10m diameter water wheel, listed as category two with Heritage New Zealand, was installed at the site of the Phoenix Flour Mill in 1878 and used to power the mill, in Old Mill Rd, before the mill building was removed in 1905.

The water wheel was dismantled in 2011 and has since been stored at the old freezer building on the Oamaru foreshore.

The wheel is a council asset.

At the council's public forum before the decision was made to grant the trust the funds, former Waitaki mayor and Phoenix Mill Restoration Trust trustee Alex Familton said the trust, which also includes Oamaru woman Carol Berry, wanted to advance the project as soon as possible.

''We're in a position where we feel the wheel can go ahead. It's an important symbol of our history. The trustees are keen to push this project ahead,'' Mr Familton said.

''Time is not of the essence here ... what really matters is to get it right and get it back there.''

He said so far, about $26,000 of the $30,000 raised to restore the wheel, including a $10,000 grant from benefactor Richard Pringle who was the original driving force behind the project, had been spent on reports and ''other costs'' related to the project.

When asked how much the restoration project was expected to cost, Mr Familton was said he would be surprised if it ''would go beyond another $30,000''.

The $10,000 grant, from the council's RMA fund, will be used for seed funding.

''We will have funding to show that the water wheel is supported by the council, through the community.''

Cr Bill Kingan asked if it was ''imperative'' the wheel went back to its original site, and suggested Clarks Mill as a location.

However, Mr Familton felt it was important, from a ''historical and geographical context'', the wheel went back to Old Mill Rd.

While Cr Melanie Tavendale supported the project, she expressed concerns about the project's timeframe.

''It does concern me to hear timing is not of the essence. I like to think in 10 years' time we are not in the position we are in now. I think our community is starting to wonder why it's been taken down and where it is.''

Cr Jim Hopkins was worried about the wheel's immediate future, as the building where it was stored had recently been classed as a safety risk.

Council community services group manager Thunes Cloete said the council wanted to move the wheel to one site where it could be restored and not moved again.

Waitaki Mayor Gary Kircher said a working plan had been put to Heritage New Zealand for consideration, but no agreement had been reached.

By Daniel Birchfield. 


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