The Balmoral Forest Lookout Restoration Project.
In 1995 a heritage assessment of the lookout was undertaken followed with a study by the university of Canterbury in 1996. From this DOC did some remedial work in the late 1990s. In 2001 the building was inspected by an architect and repair specifications and plans were drawn up. In 2014 when the site’s heritage assessment was completed the Hurunui District Council was requested to include the Lookout in its schedule of heritage features in its District Plan review. Dave Hislop of the Hawarden-Waikari Lions Club had the notion that this could be a worthwhile project for the club to take on. The fact that it would require substantial funding was a problem, so the project stayed on hold until 2019 when the Department of Conservation added its funds along with the donations already provided by the club, Amberley and Amuri Lions Clubs, Waipara County Historical Society, Hurunui District Council, and Amuri Irrigation Company, and other contributors. A total of $70,000 was raised which ensured that the project would go ahead.
Under the motivation and leadership of Dave Hislop, a project team of Hawarden-Waikari Lions and local DOC staff was formed. The project team then put out a tender for the restoration and selected a builder who began the renovation of the building in October 2019. Refurbishment of the building was completed in early December with the addition of display panels describing the environment of the area in front of the Lookout, while inside the building display panels depict its history and that of the forest. This gives the visitor a great insight into the significance and history of the Lookout and its connection to the forest and the region. Seating donated by Amberley Lions, a toilet, and a plane table directing visitors to points of interest in the vista beyond has been added. A community management team has being formed to oversee the future maintenance of the lookout which will be done by the Hawarden-Waikari Lions.
The effort of the climb to the lookout rewards visitors with magnificent views of the forest, the plain, and the ring of mountains beyond, together with an appreciation of the historical importance of the site. This has become a great attraction and asset for the Hurunui region with hundreds of visitors already visiting the site and is an excellent example of what can be achieved by a community supported by a government department.
In 2021 we were the proud joint winners of the Canterbury Heritage Public Realm Saved and Restored section which was a great honour for the club, and in 2022 the club received the award for the best project in Lion District 202E.