Funding for Willowbank windmill

BRIDGET RAILTON
Last updated 14:43 20/12/2012
Jim Geddes
BRIDGET RAILTON/Fairfax NZ

Pam Copland, left, and Jan Wards, of Waikaka Valley Rural Women present Eastern Southland Museum district curator Jim Geddes with $2000 to go towards the restoration of the Waikaka windmill and water tank.

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It's an historic place - one of only two of its kind left in New Zealand - but it's missing its most vital part.

Willowbank windmill and water tank, at Waikaka, has been a feature of the Eastern Southland landscape for more than 100 years.

But its most defining characteristic, the head of the windmill, has been missing since 1995 after strong winds blew the then-inoperative mill apart.

According to the New Zealand Historic Places Trust register, the Willowbank windmill and water tank is the only place in New Zealand where a railway windmill has been retained with its own water tank.

This year it was upgraded to a category one historic place but it stands broken and desolate without its crowning glory.

Eastern Southland Art Gallery district curator Jim Geddes has been campaigning for the past six to seven years to restore the landmark to its former dignity.

Through a range of grants and fundraising efforts, work on restoring the vanes on the head of the windmill has been completed, but the end product is still a long way off.

The biggest issue facing the restoration is finding a way to replicate the tension on the mill created by running water.

Without the tension, the head will simply blow off again in strong winds, he said.

An engineering assessment on the structure of the tower also needs to be completed to see if the existing structure is still viable.

About $13,000 had been spent on the restoration project, which is expected to cost about $60,000, Mr Geddes said.

A fundraising evening by Waikaka Valley Rural Women earlier this year raised a further $2000.

Rural women's member Jeanette McIntyre said the site's restoration was important.

"It's sad that it's just standing there. It's such an important part of the history of the area and now it's just an eyesore."

The money, which was raised at a film evening, would go towards replacing the tail vanes.

It's a big undertaking, but it was worth it, she said.

"We are just losing too many old things around here. If everyone donates, we might not lose another."

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