Water tower’s days numbered 

The old tower will soon be gone in Kihikihi.

By Mary Anne Gill and Viv Posselt

Kihikihi’s Turata Water Tower will be demolished despite a rear-guard action from some members of the community who say they want it retained and covered with a mural.

Waipā District Council’s Strategic Planning and Policy committee voted to remove the tower which was built in 1948 and commissioned in 1951.

It has not been used to store water for several years.

Kihikihi-based councillor Marcus Gower said removing the tower was what the community wanted.

“It’s a concrete tower that doesn’t add value to the reserve.”

Fellow Kihikihi councillor Hazel Barnes agreed saying the demolition plans had been “well canvassed” throughout the community.

“The majority of people want it gone and iwi want it gone too,” she said.

But a group arguing for its retention met last Friday.

Members of Kihikihi Lions Club, the Kihikihi Police House Temple Cottage Charitable Trust, Kihikihi Bowling Club and business operators questioned what they described as undue haste by council in deciding the tower’s fate, and asked for the topic to be removed from the Strategic Planning and Policy committee to allow full discussions to take place with the wider Kihikihi community.

Kihikihi Lions man Mike Proffit said Waikato mural artist Jeremy Shirley had described the tower as an amazing blank canvas and John Miles said many businesspeople and groups he had spoken to didn’t want the tower to go.  Jan Burch, the Police House caretaker, said the rush to make a decision left them feeling they were being railroaded.

“There was insufficient information, insufficient lead-up time, and insufficient community consultation,” she said.

Police House Trust secretary Angela Brown said while Heritage NZ has confirmed that the water tower would not be protected under heritage legislation, Waipā District Council was required to follow the standard process of applying for an authority to undertake the removal project, if it involves ground disturbance – which would inevitably be the case.

“We hope council takes the time in the interim to discuss the project fully with the wider Kihikihi community so the overall process is understood.”
Senior reserves planner Anna McElrea told the committee whānau and hapu opposed the water tower’s retention saying they saw no historical significance in the shape, size, construction or use of the tower because of its common use throughout the country.

Iwi said they would be keen to participate in any future planning for the site.

It will cost council between $50,000-$70,000 to remove the tower.

Minor works to install two picnic tables and interpretation signage is estimated to cost a further $17,000.

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