By CRIS JOHNSTON
The Otago Goldfields Trust says it is “excited” by the new conservation plan being developed for Stewart Town, a former gold-mining settlement at Bannockburn.
The draft plan, commissioned by the trust and the Department of Conservation (Doc), was presented to members at the trust’s annual meeting on September 17.
Trust president Martin Anderson said the report would be sent to Doc and Heritage Aotearoa for consideration along with the organisation’s full membership.
“So, I can’t say too much just yet until everyone has had a chance to view it and comment, but we are very excited by what it could it mean for the future of Stewart Town,” Mr Anderson said.
The ruins of the settlement, including stone cottages and Menzies Dam, sit on a terrace above the Kawarau River and are a feature of the Sluicings Historic Reserve.
The ghost settlement is surrounded by an old orchard that still produces fruit.
Mr Anderson said Menzies Dam was an outstanding historical, archaeological and landscape feature.
With walls up to 2m high, it was one of the largest of its type in Otago.
“There was little left now of earth buildings that were once part of the settlement,” Mr Anderson said.
“Stewart Town is visited by a lot of local people. There is a lot of local passion for the area.
“However, ruins of the cottages and dam are in slow degradation.
“We thought we would like to launch a project that would engage the community and decide on a way forward.”
Once the draft report had been considered by all parties a public meeting would be held, possibly at the end of October.
In his annual report, Mr Anderson said like many organisations of its type, the OGHT was facing a decline in numbers.
“Finding volunteers happy to serve on the committee is becoming more difficult.”
However, events held over the past year, including the Cavalcade and gold-panning championships, were very successful.
“Next year, will be the 25th cavalcade and we are working closely with host town Omakau to ensure it is a particularly large and boisterous affair,” Mr Anderson said.
Reaching its 25 year anniversary did not mean the event would be “put out to pasture”.
Rather OGHT was seeking to expand its boundaries and possibly take the cavalcade into new territory .
“An opportunity presents itself in 2018 for a new vigour to take the cavalcade into new territory. A host town had now been decided on yet but there is potential for somewhere outside our usual boundaries to be selected.