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Hyde Rail Disaster 06 1943 3

Photograph courtesy of the Otago Daily Times

Irrigation and Recreation

The Idaburn Dam was built in 1931 as part of the Idaburn Irrigation Scheme to supply water to 228 hectares of farmland. 

While the dam was built for irrigation, a flow on effect created an excellent tourism opportunity.  In winter, the dam was the largest and most easily accessible expanse of ice in Australia or New Zealand and created an excellent place for winter sports and entertainment. 

The dam hosted the ancient curling (ice sport) Bonspiel tournaments. Curling was introduced from Scotland by gold miners who came to Otago in the early 1860s.

Photo on right:

Curling at Mt Ida Dam,

Subject Photograph Collection Box 73, Number 25,

Toitū Otago Settlers Museum


Ice Carnivals, following the bonspiel matches, became especially popular in the 1930s and 1940s. Local Oturehua men and women excitedly formed a winter sports club in 1933 for the purpose of promoting ice skating and ice hockey to visitors. 

While the bonspiel matches were taken very seriously, the ice carnival was seen as a less formal event. The Otago Daily Times reported that in most cases skaters were ”more enthusiastic than skilled” but everyone had a thoroughly enjoyable time. Music was provided with pipers or gramophones playing across the ice and floodlights were introduced for night skating. Children excitedly reported to the local newspaper about the hundreds of people they saw in the parades as part of the event and thousands of people attended.

Photo on left:

S19-219d Ice Skating on the Idaburn Dam, ca. 1957,

Terry Crowe photograph, Box-119-004,

Hocken Collections - Uare Taoka o Hākena, University of Otago

Today the Idaburn Dam is also a popular fishing spot and an adjacent paddock hosts the popular Brass Monkey Motorcycle Rally, where riders travel in often freezing, June temperatures.

Skating on the Idaburn Dam

Photograph courtesy of the Otago Daily Times

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