Editorial: Many happy returns, Twizel

Happy birthday, Twizel.

It seems like only yesterday you were staring down the blade of the Government bulldozer, defiantly digging your toes in and refusing to disappear compliantly back into the landscape.

But it was 30 years ago that the battle to keep the community was won; on June 1, 1984, Twizel was officially recognised as a town.

It was to be a weekend of low-key celebrations, screenings of a film outlining the history of Twizel, a guided visit to the Ohau power station, exploration of parts of the Alps2Ocean cycle trail. But, it was felt it was important people had the chance to get together and tell their stories.

Organiser Shaun Norman says that in the 1980s, it seemed crazy to not make use of all the infrastructure left behind when the hydro works were completed.

He and his wife were among the first to buy a cheap Twizel house, from memory, he thinks they paid $10,000.

Times have changed. Property values in the affectionately-described "town of trees" are now many, many times that. The early purchasers who picked up their property for a song now sit comfortably, their faith in the town amply rewarded.

The town now has a resident population - according to the 2013 census - of 1500 people. That's still a fraction of the 6000 in the town's 1970s hydro scheme heyday, but many more than the modest community that hung determinedly on while everyone else caught up on what the area had to offer.

Because Twizel's been part of the Mackenzie, and in a wider sense, South Canterbury, for so many decades now, perhaps we've become somewhat blasé about its fascinating history, the David and Goliath struggle to retain it, the physical evidence where once were more roads and more houses, and the buildings turned to new uses, or demolished and replaced.

Anyone who lived, worked, or grew up in Twizel belongs to a special club, their memories very different to those of most other New Zealanders.

The late Marion Sheridan seemed to realise that, writing Dam Dwellers, a book about the history of hydro electricity development in the Mackenzie Country, and the communities of Otematata and Twizel.

Her family authorised a reprint in time for the weekend's celebrations, and continuing to make it available will help ensure the stories, the memories and the history beyond the dry facts will not be lost, regardless of the passing of the years.

And that's a great birthday gift.

The Timaru Herald