Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Christmas Lights

A couple of residents have gone all out to decorate their homes this year. It's really nice to see. Of course, I had to go out late to get these pictures and risked being thought a prowler.
Main Street, North Otautau
Queen Street, Otautau

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Drummond Hall

The Drummond Public Hall
Photo by Helen McLeish. All rights reserved.

The Drummond Public Hall

The Drummond Hall is being taken apart, piece by piece. It was built by about 1902 and has been the centre of the Drummond community for over a hundred years. Various forces have converged to create its demise - a costly upgrade being the major factor.

I was told by the gentleman dismantling it that the whole building was made of rimu including the walls which were lined with tongue in groove. Some of the wood has already been recycled and is now part of the new, beautiful bar at the Otautau Hotel (along with wood from the Pukemaori School), and some of the wood will be going to Auckland. The wood with borer will be burned.

It was surprising to hear from this gentleman that no schools have visited the site to learn more about the history of the area, and why the hall was being dismantled. Nor have any scout groups approached him for wood to use in building projects. Seems a shame to have such a quiet end for something that was once so lively and part of the community.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Christmas Street Party

Last night, Main Street was blocked off for 3 hours for the annual Christmas Street Party. This was a great event and thanks go to the Otautau Promotions Group for making it happen. Here are a few pictures from the festivities.

Many got into the Christmas spirit starting with the facepainting booth.

And Santa's elves were serving fresh fruit throughout the evening.

Santa got a surprise kiss from Kelly Cormack at the Santa photo booth where Jo Butterfield was the photographer.

The bouncy slide from the Otautau Toy Library was a big hit and loads of fun.

Mini-carts from the Otautau Sports and Social Club were in demand too.
But because it was such a hot, muggy evening, the highlight for many kids were the antics of the fire brigade. They had a competition to guess how long it would take them to fill up this trough with water. It only took about 38 seconds, and the winner got a free fire extinguisher.
Then kids just wanted to jump in!

But a few minutes later, they turned on the hose and kids came running from all directions.

The presence of local police, fire and ambulance made the whole event feel safe and in good hands.

The Christmas tree decorating contest was won by the Brownies, I believe.
Merry Christmas to all.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Opening of Old Cemetery Kiosk

The old Otautau Cemetery was looking better today than it had in years. Gone were the unsightly overgrown grasses and ragged iron fencing. Something new graced the landscape - a heritage kiosk.

But let's look back a few years...
The photo above, taken just two years ago, shows weeds growing in the concrete graves and sheep deployed to keep the grass down.

The cemetery was opened in 1879 and closed in 1947. It has had its share of problems as well as its glories. A century ago, the sexton, under the auspices of the Cemetery Trust battled gorse, weeds and drays being driven over the graves. Then came the planting of the trees in the 1930s. Decades later, their harvest seemingly left the cemetery in ruins. Iron fencing was mangled and stumps littered the final resting place of the pioneers. There were attempts to clean up the place but ultimately it was not sustained.

Over the last three years, not only have the grounds been restored, but the Otautau Lions initiated a kiosk project to honour in detail, the men, women and children buried there. The Southland District Council took over the kiosk project and have researched the burial information as extensively as they can. They have produced a beautiful heritage panel which not only details names and ages but also the layout of the sections to make graves easier to find.

Today, the kiosk was officially opened to a small crowd of locals as well as descendants from as far away as Christchurch.

David Adamson, SDC Chief Executive Officer opened the ceremony.

Peter Ayson then gave some background on how the renovation and kiosk came about and the players involved.

SDC Mayor Cardno had a few encouraging words about taking pride in heritage.
And then the kiosk was opened by Fred Dalley and Jenni Ritchie (Otautau Lions Club).
Otautau Lions Club members: Vic Keen, Roy Burnett, Jenni Ritchie, Peter Ayson and Fred Dalley. Fred had the idea for the kiosk and did a lot of the initial research on who was buried there. Jenni put the information on computer and did more research through PapersPast.
SDC staff: Donna Hawkins (Graphic Designer), Louise Pagan (Communications Manager), Greg Erskine (Area Engineer), Gloria Eno (Graphic Assistant) and Libby Frampton (Communications Assistant). Louise did the liaising with Births, Deaths and Marriages and the Privacy Commission to allow Jenni and Donna to go to Wellington and research the records. Greg has been very proactive in tidying up the cemetery and will continue to improve the condition of it. Gloria has helped with proofing and comparing the three lists of names. She has also covered on other projects to free up Donna's time to concentrate on the research and design. Libby helped write the history and helped sort through the three lists.
Rowena Baird and Judith Day pointing to a section on the kiosk.
Alythia Larsen of Christchurch (left) and family talk to Mayor Cardno. Alythia is a descendant of relatives buried in the old cemetery. In 2006, she found their graves and wanted to lay a plaque in their honour, however the state of the cemetery was so bad that she felt the District Council was not looking after it. In 2007, she spearheaded a campaign to bring the cemetery out of its state of neglect to its rightful glory. She first sent a submission to the Wallace Community Board, then to the Southland District Council's draft annual plan. In total, twenty-three submissions were made by Alythia, locals and the Historic Cemeteries Conservation Trust, and this galvanised the process toward restoration.
After the ceremony, people walked the grounds, reflecting on their ancestors. Later, they had refreshments at the SDC Otautau office.

The restoration is heartening. There is still more work to do but the cemetery is now in good enough condition that descendants can feel better about restoring their ancestors' graves as well as installing new plaques for unmarked graves.

The old cemetery is now something to be proud of thanks to the work of SDC staff and contractors, the Otautau Lions Club, and the activism of Alythia Larsen and the local community.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Ohai Dance Competition

5.00pm - Saturday, 18th December 2010
Ohai Marae - 21 Hastings Street, Ohai

Groups / Individual Acts / All Types of Dance
Top Prize $200 / Prizes and Giveaways
Registration forms please phone (03) 225 4801.
RSVP 13th December.

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