Dam stories revealed

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Secrets will surface from the depths of the dam at Cromwell Museum’s latest exhibition.

Drowned orchards, the original “lattice” bridge and Cromwell’s Chinatown are some of the sites that are now under the waters of Lake Dunstan.

Museum director Jennifer Hay said the exhibition would look at how Cromwell was transformed as a result of the Clyde Dam.

“A lot of people like to visit the museum and their first question is ‘tell us about the dam’.”

The exhibition would include aerial photos showing how the region looked before the dam plus photos showing the construction process.

Archaeological finds, including opium vials, pottery and coins, which were excavated from sites formerly occupied by Chinese gold miners would be displayed.

The construction of the dam was not without controversy.

About 18 orchards were purchased by the Government to make way for the dam.

“Some of the farmers were happy with the compensation but a lot were quite traumatised because the orchards had stayed in families for generations.”

There were also protests about the choice of site for the dam.

“They identified five potential dam sites, and there was a little bit of unrest about the siting of it.”

Various sites for the dam were discussed and there “was a lot of debate in the public”, she said.

Despite a High Court ruling against a dam being built in Clyde, the government of the day pushed ahead.

“That was really the beginning of a passionate outcry from locals in the area because I think they thought they were being scammed, and I think they might have been.”

Film footage showing the building of the dam and the formation of Lake Dunstan will be part of the exhibition.

A series of portraits of locals affected by the dam, taken by New Zealand documentary photographer Robin Morrison, will also feature.