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Stunning vista .. The view from the historic Balmoral lookout, with the Seaward Kaikouras in the distance. PHOTO: MARIE BLACK

By ROBYN BRISTOW

A project restoring the Balmoral Lookout, high above the Hurunui River, has taken on a new life.

The lookout, which has sat atop a rocky bluff in the Hurunui Hills for about 75 years is becoming home to historic information about the area. For 40 of those years it played an important part in forestry management and protection of the Balmoral Forest. For many years, though, it sat empty, vandalised and forgotten.

But the Hawarden Waikari Lions led a project to restore the building, a rare example of a fire lookout in New Zealand, which holds a place in history alongside lighthouses.

A small governance group of Dave Hislop, Gary McCracken and Hurunui Mayor Marie Black, with support from Gavin Collis and Kingsley Timpson from the Department of Conservation, have kept the project ticking along.

Local builder Matthew Newton has breathed new life into the lookout. Now a plane table, identifying the peaks that can be viewed from it, is being established alongside information panels inside the building, which will tell the story of the lookout, the people who kept the Balmoral forest safe, and share stories about it from locals.

The panels have been developed by Janet Bathgate from Nelson on behalf of the Department of Conservation,

Mrs Black, who was raised on the family farm that surrounded the lookout, says the project has become a collaboration between community groups, with the Amberley Lions also coming on board with a donation for seats, so people can take a breather during the 40 minute walk from the Bluff Road up to the Lookout.

“Once finished, this will become a museum collection of historic information that relates to forestry assets, production and the protection of these assets over a long period of time,” she says.

An April opening had been planned for the completed project, but this is on hold due to the nationwide Covid-19 lockdown.

Mrs Black says the governance group is proud of the project and the protection of this valuable asset.

“Of course, the view is second to none on arrival.”