By PHILIP CHANDLER
A spruce-up of Queenstown’s Robert Lee Memorial, by the Ladies Mile highway, is being
spearheaded by his great-grandson, who’s also named Robert Lee.
The original Robert Lee was a mining entrepreneur and engineer who bought nearby Threepwood Farm — named after his English birthplace — and its then-new homestead a year before he died in 1911.
Days before he died, his irrigation scheme, which took water from Boundary Creek, on the
Remarkables, to his farm, via the Kawarau River, was completed.
The forerunner of the Arrow scheme, it was considered to be the largest private irrigation scheme in New Zealand.
Lee’s son Leo then took over the farm till it was sold to the Strain family in 1938.
Meantime, his friends erected a memorial cairn in his honour in 1912 — it included a Robert Lee-designed horse trough with an angular design so horses could be watered without having to be unhitched.
Two years ago, Robert Lee junior bought a section by the restored Threepwood homestead
— ‘‘it was one of those ‘too good to be true’ moments’’ — and has now built his ‘‘forever home’’ on it.
Finding the memorial to be ‘‘pretty dilapidated and pretty tired’’, he and other descendants
and cousins have chipped in and employed third-generation stonemason Rob Williams to do it up.
The work will include repointing the lettering.
The horse trough plumbing will also be fixed, ‘‘so we’ll hopefully have it working’’.
The memorial and trough were moved to their current site 15 years ago when the highway was widened.
That job was paid for by Threepwood subdivision developer and current mayor Jim Boult.