This project will create a lookout and heritage education area at the Sign of the Bellbird carpark. The goals of the project are:
- To provide a safe and accessible lookout area over the harbour. This view is one of the most iconic views in Canterbury.
- To bring together the rich stories of this place.
- To provide a gateway into Ohinetahi Reserve and the network of reserves along the Port Hills.
Through environmental design and the use of interpretation panels, this project will weave together the stories of this place: the geo-diversity of the harbour, the history of Ngāti Wheke who hold manawhenua over the area, the legacy of Harry Ell and his historic rest-houses, and the work of the late John Jameson and the Summit Road Society to protect the Port Hills.
The design includes a low wall using Port Hills stone in the style of Harry Ell, a pou whenua to represent mana whenua history, interpretation panels to provide information and an accessible lookout area with seating options, all complemented by native plantings.
Following a tender process earlier this year, Maugers Contracting Ltd was engaged to complete the earthworks, wall foundations and paving. Southern Stone Ltd was appointed to complete the stone wall and steps. Construction began in May 2022 and the project is nearing completion. We have been hampered by heavy rain and disruptions related to Covid-19 and other winter illnesses but we are nearly there! We are anticipating that the Sign of the Bellbird carpark will reopen in late January 2023. Thank you for your patience while the carpark has been closed to vehicles during the construction phase. Pedestrian access is available at the northern end of the carpark – follow the signs.
Caine Tauwhare, master carver from Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke (Rāpaki), is creating the pou whenua for the site. Pou whenua are used to mark territorial boundaries and places of significance. Interpretation panels on the history and significance of the site are also being developed. Volunteers will plant native shrubs around the lookout in winter 2023.
A big thank you to the funders who have helped make this project a reality: the Harry Ell Summit Road Memorial Trust, the Rātā Foundation, the JD Stout Charitable Trust, the Christchurch City Council, the Lotteries Environment and Heritage Fund, the Lyttelton Port Company and donations from individuals and families.
The Sign of the Bellbird was one of Harry Ell’s rest-houses, a place for travellers to rest as they walked the hills. Harry Ell’s grandson John Jameson founded the Summit Road Society in 1948 to continue his grandfather’s vision to protect and preserve the Port Hills.
For a number of years, the Society proposed enhancing the carpark area opposite the Sign of the Bellbird above Ohinetahi Reserve. Discussions were underway when the earthquakes struck and this project was placed on hold.
The project resumed in 2018 and a series of concept drawings were prepared and circulated for feedback. This has been an iterative process over four years. The Summit Road Society has been working in partnership with the Christchurch City Council and Te Hapū o Ngāti Wheke and consulted widely with key partners and the wider community. Particular attention has been paid to minimising the risk of the anti-social behaviour.
We are very grateful to landscape architects Graham Densem and Nic Kaye and engineering firm Davie Lovell-Smith for their assistance with this project.
3D image towards Lyttelton Harbour
3D image towards the Sign of the Bellbird
Naming the area
Harry Ell worked tirelessly to establish the network of reserves on the Port Hills, the Summit Road and the four rest houses.
Following WWII, his grandson John Jameson was horrified to discover that the reserves had been grazed and logged and the rest houses had been vandalised. He pushed for the creation of a protection society and in 1948 the Summit Road Society was formed.
John was a leading figure in the Society for many years and was awarded Honorary Life Membership in 1983. He had long advocated for the enhancement of the carpark area above Ohinetahi Reserve.
John passed away in 2018 at the age of 97 after a long life of service.
The Board of the Society has decided to name the area the John Jameson Lookout in recognition of John’s extraordinary contribution to the Port Hills, to the Summit Road Society and to the people of Christchurch.