“Heritage New Zealand is thrilled to be able to return what many in the Lyttelton community told us they wanted, the unique timeball and its tower,” says Heritage New Zealand’s Director Southern Region, Sheila Watson.
“To formally open the site with support from local and national dignitaries and key supporters is very special. It shows how important the return of such a familiar feature overlooking this port town is."
The timeball, originally built to assist seafarers in navigation and timekeeping, dropped daily for 135 years before it was closed following the September 2010 earthquake and destroyed in the June 2011 earthquake. Following the site’s deconstruction and storage of as much heritage as possible the $3m project got underway onsite in July last year. The project would not have been possible without the generosity of founder donor Landmark Incorporated, along with the Lottery Grants Board, Holcim, Stout Trust and Parkinson Memorial Park Trust (both administered by Perpetual Guardian) and the Mainland Foundation. Stark Brothers repaired the timeball and flag pole, while The Building Intelligence Group also contributed generously.
Today the site, with its tower, timeball, flagpole, interpretation and landscaped grounds is open again for the public to enjoy, free of charge, during daylight hours. The addition of feature lighting will make for stunning evening viewing of the tower against a night backdrop, but access to the site itself will be restricted. More interpretation and landscaping will be added in the coming months.
“What we have now is a place the public can enjoy and learn about the history of the site, what the purpose of the former Timeball Station was and how seafarers from the first arrival of Māori to today have used navigation techniques to guide them. A special marker created by Ngāti Wheke carver Caine Tauwhare will reflect the significance of local Māori history and celestial navigation expertise. Flags will be flying here again which will add vibrancy and reflect its original purpose.
“The site is a nod to its very important past but also a newly plotted pathway to the future. It incorporates original heritage elements with new, such as the automated timeball mechanism replacing the original component due to the extent of earthquake damage it received. We also have returned the timeball to its original colours of cream and red.”
The project was managed by The Building Intelligence Group and the main construction work on the tower was carried out by Hawkins. Stark Bros Ltd of Lyttelton repaired the timeball using the original wooden frame and a new zinc skin. The stonework, using original stones pinned to a new quake resistant core, was completed by specialist stonemasons Bosworth and Barthal Stone Restoration. A time-lapse camera (http://lytteltontimeball.projectstory.co.nz) captured the progress of the build every 10 minutes during work hours.
For more comment (on 2 November):
Director Southern Region
Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga
tel: 027 484 4088