Fireworks Threatens Christchurch’s Highest Icon – 4th May 2016

Sugarloaf Scenic Reserve was once part of a grand farm known as Cashmere.  The main farming hub sat snug beside the Port Hills while the most southern boundary of grazing paddocks once reached up over the hills as far as Governors Bay.  Cashmere’s founder, India born Sir John Cracroft Wilson led his family and seventeen Indian servants over the Bridle Path toward their new life in Canterbury in 1854.

Along with his eventual hundreds of hectares at Cashmere (named after ‘Kashmir’ in India), he also had property out in Rolleston. Cracroft Wilson poured his heart and soul into the farm, wanting his son Fredrick to have the best start in the place when he returned to India.  By the time he left, Cracroft Wilson had built an 11 bedroom homestead (sadly demolished due to quake damage), gardener’s cottage, blacksmith shop, stables, coach house, storage shed, a dairy, a fowl house and whares for the shepherds and ploughmen.  The main entrance walls to this historic area can still be seen at the end of Holmecroft Court where the Indian workforce accommodation known as” The Old Stone House” (1870) is still holding its place in the now subdivided land.

During the 1920’s, the Cracroft Wilson family sold 110 hectares to Harry Ell who was in the middle of his “full on” Summit Road project.  Those 110 hectares not only meant Cracroft Hill but also Sugar Loaf Hill was out of the family’s hands. Today, we find what remains of Cracroft Reserve (Cracroft Hill) tucked in behind the ‘Sign of the Takahe’.

Sugarloaf (still part of a sheep farm) is now mainly known as the home of transmission mast and accompanying transmission house – known to technicians as ‘…transmission hall…’ – which is now mostly unmanned.  The mast is 121m tall and sits on top of the Sugarloaf Scenice Reserve at an elevation of 493.78m above sea level.

Covered with antennas, dishes, dipoles and microwave links – the tower provides transmission for television, radio, emergency services, cellular, aviation etc.

From the Rangitiata River to Waipara the coverage is good but Christchurch’s suburbs of Sumner and Redcliffs are known to have problems and Akaroa is out of range completely.

On the evening of 4th May 2016, a large fire caused by fireworks, narrowly missed severely damaging Sugarloaf Transmission House.  Flames were spotted around 9pm and fortunately the fire was largely out by 1.30am. The Fire Service had four pumps, four tankers and it’s Command Unit in place to secure the site and make it safe for operations.

*Image courtesy of the Christchurch City Council – https://www.ccc.govt.nz*

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