Birthday cheer despite water tower's uncertain future

Birthday cheer despite uncertain future

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 05:00 26/03/2014
Hawera water tower
LAIRD HARPER / Fairfax NZ
HAPPY BIRTHDAY: South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop and Judith Brewer celebrate Hawera’s iconic water tower.

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The future of Hawera's water tower may be shaky but public support for the 100-year-old building remains rock solid.

Yesterday, a 200-strong crowd gathered in the shadow of the landmark building to mark its centenary and grab a slice of birthday cake.

Leading the party was South Taranaki mayor Ross Dunlop, who shared the tower's colourful history.

Built to appease insurance companies after three massive fires in the town's central business area in 1884, 1888 and 1912, it developed a lean as it neared completion, he said.

So the tower was repaired in the dead of night.

"The tower is still standing and providing a feature of our landscape that we can all be proud of," he said.

For Hawera resident Judith Brewer, whose grandfather was a Hawera councillor during the structure's conception and erection, the 54-metre tower played a key part in her life.

"I had two older brothers. When we were children we would be taken out [to the tower] with nursemaids in the afternoon while our mothers went to tea parties," the 88-year-old said.

As she grew up the silhouette of the tower on the horizon always signalled home was not far away.

In 1997 a proposal to demolish it gained traction but after three years of strong campaigning it was saved from the bulldozers.

Council closed it when pieces of masonry started falling off it, until a $1.1 million makeover was complete in 2004.

Now the council is again facing a costly repair after a seismic report questioned the strength of its foundations.

The South Taranaki District Council will soon launch an in-depth assessment of the entire tower, which is expected to take about six months.

 

FACT BOX

Towers over Hawera at 54 metres.

Tank can hold about 680,000 litres of water.

There are 215 steps to the top gallery.

Has a three-inch lean.

When the neon lights were fitted to the tower in 1932, it was billed as the tallest lighthouse in New Zealand.

Built for £4510. 


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