Australasia’s first illuminated electric fountain, the Bowker Fountain, is back to its colourful best with the restoration of Victoria Square now complete.
Jane Stace, a descendent of Henry Bowker who bequeathed the funds for the fountain in 1921, today helped turn the 87-year-old fountain back on as part of the reopening event.
The 13-month restoration project has been delivered by Ōtākaro Limited on behalf of the Crown, in collaboration with Christchurch City Council and Matapopore on behalf of Ngāi Tūāhuriri/Ngāi Tahu.
Ōtākaro Chief Executive Albert Brantley says it’s rare to be part of a construction job where the aim is not to change much at all.
“The layout of Victoria Square’s paved and grassed areas is just as people will remember it. Heritage monuments like the Queen Victoria and Captain Cook statues and the floral clock remain in their prominent locations,”
“This was done in response to considerable public feedback on the future of Victoria Square before the work started.”
The restoration plan for Victoria Square was closely reviewed by an Independent Reference Group made up of heritage, local business, tourism, accessibility and youth organisations.
“The Canterbury earthquakes left Victoria Square in a poor condition, with uneven paved surfaces creating ponding areas, trip hazards and subsidence issues in this popular public space,” says Mr Brantley.
“By replacing the 170,000 pavers and installing around three kilometres of new underground pipe and cabling for upgraded irrigation, drainage and lighting, Victoria Square’s lifespan has been extended for decades and it is safer and more accessible.”
“A new punt stop opposite the Town Hall will enable people to make greater use of the Avon River.”
“Victoria Square will now tie in seamlessly with the river promenade that’s under construction and put the best of Christchurch on show for those visiting the neighbouring Convention Centre."
Victoria Square is a place of special significance for Ngāi Tūāhuriri. In pre-European times it was recorded as the site of Puari, a Waitaha pā which stretched along the banks of the Avon/Ōtākaro river, close to Victoria Square – and this stretch of river has always been an important mahinga kai site for Ngāi Tahu.
“The concrete and brass Kanakana table is a beautiful riverside addition to Victoria Square. It’s a place where large groups can gather to share a meal and it acknowledges the rich history of the area as a traditional food gathering place,” says Mr Brantley.
The restoration of Victoria Square and the repair and upgrading of the adjoining sections of Colombo Street and Armagh Street has cost around $12.7m. The roadworks will be finished next month.