By AMANDA BOWES
The historic Highfield woolshed, not far from Waiau, was twisted and bent when a fault line ruptured right through the middle of it in the devastating earthquakes on November 14 last year.
The same fault continued on its way completely decimating the farm workshop, which was reduced to a pile of rubble.
This week, one year on from the fateful early morning quake, the hub and heart of Highfield will undergo restoration and owner, Michael Northcote couldn’t be happier.
After much consultation with an architect from Heritage New Zealand, several structural engineers, local builders, the Hurunui District Council and Heritage House Re-levellers in Christchurch, the huge T-shaped building will be lifted a couple of metres in the air to begin the process of re-piling.
“We felt as a family, it meant too much to the family and locals, to not fix it.
“Everyone who has come to assess the damage has been so positive – it is definitely fixable, it is just the cost and working out how to cover it that has been difficult,” says Michael.
Classed as a Category One historic building, the woolshed is totally original.
Built from rimu, the 24 stand shed was built in 1877 and the extremely strong trusses in the roof probably saved it from collapse.
As it was built before 1900, the ground is considered archaeologically significant and before any soil can be disturbed, an archaeologist has to be on site.
Michael says they will be notified once the woolshed is jacked up, so an assessment can be done.
“It is likely that this area was a thoroughfare in the days of the first settlers and earlier.”
Heritage House Re-levellers will lift the building two metres in one go using air bags and the ground will then be scraped of debris and the new pile holes bored out.
There will be about 300 new piles and each one will be concreted in 1.2 to 1.5 metres. The builders will work in accordance with Heritage New Zealand guidelines as the restoration takes place.
B G Beaven Builders, from Rotherham will be doing the repair work inside and adding extra bracing.
Michael says having the woolshed and workshop out of action has been incredibly difficult and shows how one takes things for granted, until it is gone.
With the shed a ‘no go zone’ a generous neighbour has given the Northcotes full use of his woolshed and yards.
“We are very thankful for our neighbour at Mount Highfield, Barry Read.
Without his generosity I don’t know what we would have done as there is no other woolshed nearby.”
Around 6500 sheep used to go through the Highfield shed during the year and jobs that were matter of course – crutching, dagging, shearing and loading out – have become a mission. Michael says with no power and no workshop even simple tasks like inflating tyres on farm vehicles and machinery is hard work having to use a foot pump.
“I am desperate to get the shed back as it is the hub of the farm. It’s amazing how we have made do over the past 12 months.”
It is hoped the woolshed will be in full working order by next autumn.