Saturday, April 13, 2024

Heritage stonewalls repaired at Denniston

The Department of Conservation (DOC) has completed the complex job of fixing a collapsed section of 140-year-old stone retaining walls at Denniston, north of Westport.

For many decades, Denniston was the site of New Zealand’s largest producing coal mine. Today it is a Category 1 Historic Place, Tohu Whenua landmark and DOC Heritage Icon.

DOC Senior Heritage Advisor, Tom Barker says work began in May to reconstruct a section knocked down by a slip.

“Stone wall work is not something we do every day, especially not on structures of this size and age. The DOC team which co-ordinated and led the work, and the local geotechnical company contracted to carry it out, did an amazing job.”

“Many areas of Denniston, including the Brakehead site where the work was done, are legally protected archaeological sites as the area was occupied prior to 1900. We already had the archaeological authority to go ahead as that had been acquired for other remediation works at Denniston.

“The geotech company worked to secure the site, cleaned loose material off and stabilised the slip site with shotcrete and rock bolts. They then employed a local stone mason to rebuild the historic wall, stone by stone, with an archaeologist and heritage expert called on for advice as needed,” he said.

DOC says the reconstruction work was essential for the conservation of the site and visitor safety. The site has been successfully restored to pre-collapse state and is open for visitors again.

The work has been useful in informing the future management of Denniston, said Mr Barker.

“Denniston is a popular Buller heritage attraction, It has a series of significant sites but they are not as well connected as they could be. We’re going to work on improving how visitors flow through so they get the most enjoyment from all sites and stories.”

Once home to over 1,500 people, Denniston is now a ghost town. The rocky plateau offers magnificent views of coastal plains and ocean. Even when shrouded in mist the dramatic landscape is still breathtaking.

Visitors get a glimpse of the tough working and living conditions endured by miners and their families in this desolate 19th century industrial environment.

There are a number of relics and great heritage sites to explore, particularly the railway incline and the township.

Shorter walks at Denniston include the Brakehead and Coalbrookdale. For those wanting something more challenging, the Bridle Track, also known as the Denniston bridle path, reopened earlier this year following repairs.

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