$1m donation to rebuild timeball

4:15 pm on 25 May 2013

A charity in Auckland is making a donation of $1 million to help rebuild the Lyttelton timeball station.

The money is from Landmark Incorporated, a charity set up in 1972 to preserve New Zealand landmarks.

The Historic Places Trust, which will oversee the work, says the donation will allow for the tower, the flagpole and the timeball itself to be rebuilt.

It hopes to begin that work within the next 18 months. Chief executive Bruce Chapman says there are only three timeball stations left in the world and it's important to retain some of what's left of Christchurch's history.

The trust hopes to raise further funds to help restore the rest of the category-1 listed building.

It had stood for 135 years before being damaged beyond repair in the earthquake on 22 February 2011, having already been damaged in the quake of 4 September 2010.

It was in the process of being brought down stone by stone when it was completely destroyed by a big aftershock in June 2011.

An example of Victorian technology, the station was erected in 1876. As the trust's website explains, a ball dropping from the mast on its stone tower would signal the time to ships in Port Lyttelton.

Visual time signals were necessary in those days to correct ships' chronometers and ensure accurate navigation. Use of the timeball was discontinued in 1934 when it was replaced by radio signals.