The white cross was removed by the Waipa District Council for safety reasons.
It has been put into storage and the Cambridge Community Board (CCB) has been tasked with deciding its future. CCB chairman Mike Pettit said that in order to make an informed decision on the cross’s fate, feedback was needed from Cambridge residents and churches.
“The cross used to be lit up until the lights failed some years ago,” he said. “It has had no meaningful maintenance for many years. We need the community’s views on the most appropriate place for it to be repositioned.
“Personally, I will be supporting its refurbishment, being lit and repositioned in an appropriate place that is visual to residents and visitors alike.”
Several people have expressed concern at the cross’s removal, and want to see it returned. They cite the restoration of the historic Thomas Wells Memorial Gates, which were recently repositioned just metres from their original spot overlooking Lake Te Ko Utu, and suggest the same should happen to the cross.
A report on what was called the “floating cross” was presented to the CCB meeting earlier this week by Waipa District Council community facilities manager Bruce Airey.
It said the cross had been removed “due to concerns around its stability and structural soundness”, and called on the CCB to direct community consultation on whether the cross should be retained as it is (subject to a structural assessment), refurbished, redesigned or removed. It also pointed out that there was currently no funding available to carry out the structural assessment.
The report suggested the cross had been placed more as a ‘homecoming’ function rather than as a religious statement, with the site chosen as one that welcomed the town’s residents.
Cambridge historian Eris Parker said her understanding was that the cross had been put up in 1968 as a joint initiative involving the then Borough Council and the Cambridge Power Board.
That was supported by Cambridge Museum records which state in the Cambridge Independent issue of December 19, 1968, that the cross was to be installed and lit in time for Christmas.
But an earlier Cambridge Independent story, this one published on December 3, 1968, suggests there had been another cross in its place before that.
That story confirmed that an “expanded metal cross in iridescent paint and floodlit from below” was to be erected in the cedar tree at the entrance to Lake Te Ko Utu park. It said Power Board engineer Mr D.W. Bai stated that the “10ft by 5ft cross would need to be placed at the top of a 50ft pole close to the tree”.
Mr Bai reportedly said, “the old cross was proving too difficult to maintain. It had been made many years ago from two pieces of wood fitted with lightbulbs.”
The story also quoted a Mr A.P. Back as saying the previous cross had been “known from one end of New Zealand to the other”, and he remembered the time when someone had climbed the tree and taken every bulb”.
So, the mystery unfolds. In the meantime, those keen to express their views on what should happen to the white cross should contact Mike Pettit at [email protected]
By Viv Posselt