If only walls could talk

Some may say there’s no place in modern Queenstown for the ever-so-humble crib, or bach.

But below Frankton Rd is a place where the crib’s still valued.

The 24 ‘Frankton Lakefront Cribs’, next to the marina and with unhindered lake and mountain views, are a remnant of Queenstown holiday life as it used to be.

Some are quite flash, tastefully designed and modern but, thankfully, some are still eclectic expressions of 20th century Kiwi DIY architecture.

Now the cribs are the subject of a home-made book, courtesy of one of the owners, Neil Jackson.

Neil and his wife, Hilary, lived in Invercargill, bought their crib for holidays 33 years ago and now call it home.

It’s an assemblage of buildings with the sarking, scrim, puttied windows, embossed wallpaper and T&G replaced over the years by more modern materials.

‘‘We’ve tried to keep it to its true self, within reason,’’ Neil says.

Delving into his crib’s history led him to explore the histories of all the cribs around him and create the book he’s constantly adding to and running off for the neighbours.

He says rather than gather information on the owners, which might have got him into ‘‘hot water’’, he’s concentrated on the buildings and how they came to be.

‘‘A lot of southern cribs were started off by bringing trailer loads of stuff in the weekends.’’

Some were built in Invercargill and Dunedin and transported to Frankton; some were caravans with additions; one was made out of packing crates that contained parts for bulldozers.

When the lakefront land was subdivided in the 1950s, several sections, at more than £400 each, were snapped up by people in the wool trade.

There were also quite a few pilots among the original owners, including one who tied up his amphibian at the bottom of his section while on
holiday.

One crib was owned by the Invercargill family of a former Miss World runner-up, and another is still owned by a well-known radio personality.

The 1999 slip that led to five cribs being condemned is still fresh in his memory, as is the successful 2003 battle with the council to stop it making changes to the lake level that would have turned their beach into a sea of mud.

And Neil’s made sure the battle to protect Central Otago’s largest crack willow tree, on the lake shore, hasn’t been forgotten.

He professes not to know what the cribs are worth, but expects they’d have to be worth a lot for him to consider moving.

‘‘I’d have to find another slice of paradise.’’

Meantime, he has a new lead to explore — one of the old buildings was the original Frankton Hotel.

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