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Long-awaited rejuvenation .. Staff from Waghorn Builders are carrying out earthquake repairs and restoration work on the Kowai County Council Memorial building in Balcairn. PHOTO: SHELLEY TOPP

By STAFF REPORTERS

Earthquake strengthening and restoration is breathing new life into the former home of the Kowai County Council in Balcairn.

It was boarded up and fenced off by its owner, the Hurunui District Council, after being damaged in the 2010-11 Canterbury earthquakes.

A decade on, repairs and strengthening work estimated to cost about $130,000 have started thanks to insurance money, boosted by a Lottery Board grant.

The work by Waghorn Builders will include a full re-roof, weather-proofing, crack repairs, painting, external recladding and structural work. It is expected to be finished in time for an early spring opening in September.

The building, known as the Kowai County Council Peace Memorial, is the home of the Kowai Archives Society.

The society, which has had limited access to the building over the last decade, uses it to collect, preserve, research and exhibit records of the area’s cultural history.

Its collection includes school rolls and class photographs, baptism records, marriage and
cemetery records, minutes and record books from clubs, associations and businesses, as
well as newspaper clippings day.

It also holds scrapbooks and family trees, plus old maps and indexes for land titles.

For the past 10 years the building, which was built in 1922 and has a Heritage New
Zealand classification, has waited in line with other council buildings in the district
to be strengthened.

Council chief executive Hamish Dobbie says the Kowai Archives Society had been
extremely patient. ‘‘They play a huge role in our community.
Without people like that, and having somewhere to store records, history can be lost.’’

Mr Dobbie says many of the less complicated strengthening projects have been finished,
but there are still some halls, buildings at the former Queen Mary Hospital, and other
council buildings damaged in the earthquakes, awaiting attention.

‘‘There are some we are having conversations about with the community because
some are amenity funded, and not supported by district-wide funding,’’ he says.
The former Amuri County

Council building at Culverden is waiting for decisions to be made about how the community would use it if it was strengthened.

‘‘There is no point spending a whole lot of money if it is not fit for purpose, or too expensive for people to rent space,’’ Mr Dobbie says.