The Elms Farm Complex (Former)

Main South Road, Peketa, Kaikoura

  • The Elms Farm Complex (Former). The Homestead (Private Residence) CC BY-SA 3.0 Licence. Image courtesy of
    Copyright: Schwede66. Taken By: Schwede66 - Wikimedia Commons. Date: 10/09/2012.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7693 Date Entered 11th May 2007


Extent of List Entry

Registration includes the Elms Homestead, Garage and Stables (Former), their fittings and fixtures, and the land on Certificate of Title MB6B/5433; The Elms Granary (Former), its fittings and fixtures, and the land on Identifier 196210; The Elms Gatehouse (Former), its fittings and fixtures, and the land on Certificate of Title MB5A/1488; The Elm's Men's Quarters and Manager's House (Former), their fittings and fixtures and the land on Certificate of Title MB5B/386. The registration excludes all other buildings on these titles. [Some of the buildings in this complex have been demolished as a result of the Kaikoura earthquake of 2016].

City/District Council

Kaikoura District


Canterbury Region

Legal description

The Elms Homestead, Garage and Stables (Former): Lot 1 DP11525 (CT MB6B/543) Marlborough Land District. The Elms Granary (Former): Pt Sec 7 Blk IX Mt Fyffe SD (Identifier 196210) Marlborough Land District. The Elms Men's Quarters and Manager's House (Former): Pt Sec 9 SO Plan 3911 (CT MB5B/386) Marlborough Land District. The Elms Gatehouse (Former): Lot 1 DP8618 (CT MB5A/1488) Marlborough Land District.


The Elms Farm Complex (Former) consists of a homestead and its associated service and farm buildings. Constructed largely during the 1870s, the predominantly concrete buildings present a stylistic unity, and provide a window into the functioning of a successful mid nineteenth century pastoral enterprise.

Successful Otago businessmen, brothers George and Frederick Bullen purchased the Kahutara Run - the first part of what would become an extensive Kaikoura landholding - in 1866. The centre of this pastoral empire was a seaside property the brothers named The Elms. By the end of the 1870s, The Elms featured a large homestead and a diverse collection of farm and service buildings.

The Elms Homestead and its ancillary buildings are an unusually cohesive group. Most are concrete and were built within a short time-span. The buildings are significant as an early and extensive example of mass concrete construction; and for the insight they provide into the social and economic relations of a nineteenth century sheep station.

The Elms remained an economic and social centre of the Kaikoura district for more than seventy years, until it was subdivided for the resettlement of ex-servicemen in the late 1940s.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Elms Farm Complex has historical significance as a comprehensive set of predominantly 1870s farm buildings. The complex also has historical significance for its associations with pioneering entrepreneurs, the Bullen brothers, who ran the prominent Bullendale mine in Otago in tandem with their Kaikoura pastoral enterprise. The Elms is also historically significant for its association with the first Cook Strait flight in 1920, and as a military encampment during World War II.

The Elms has architectural and technological significance for the unity that it presents. The majority of its buildings were probably designed by one architect - John Alves of Dunedin - and constructed within a short period of the same monolithic building material. The use of that material - poured concrete - is both early and unusually extensive, thereby giving the complex a particular cohesion and a special significance.

The Elms has social significance as a set of farm buildings from the late nineteenth century. Together the complex depicts in its original use and layout, various aspects of station life, function, and social hierarchy at this time. The presentation of what was a servant's quarters as a typical gatehouse, for example, suggests ideas of social display. Similarily, the comparative proximity of the homestead to the stables and granary, and the distance to the men's quarters and cookhouse site, suggests ideas of social class and perceptions of comparative value.

(a) The extent to which the place reflects important or representative aspects of New Zealand history

The Elms reflects the centrality of extensive pastoralism in the development of the economy of the eastern South Island, and (ipso facto) the amount of capital frequently invested in the development of pastoral estates.

(b) The association of the place with events, persons, or ideas of importance in New Zealand history

The Elms is associated with George and [Frederick] Bullen, entrepreneurial brothers significant both for their commercial and mining enterprises in Central Otago - particularly the well-known Bullendale mine - and their extensive pastoral activity in Kaikoura and Otago. The property is also closely associated with events such as the opening of the road south from Kaikoura in 1887, and the first Cook Strait flight in 1920.

(c) The potential of the place to provide knowledge of New Zealand history

The Elms provides a window into the functioning and social relations of a pastoral station in the later nineteenth century.

(g) The technical accomplishment or value, or design of the place

The Elms complex has technical and design value as an early, extensive, and cohesive example of poured concrete design and construction.

(j) The importance of identifying rare types of historic places

The Elms Farm Complex is a rare example of the extensive use of concrete in farm building construction.

(k) The extent to which the place forms part of a wider historical and cultural complex or historical and cultural landscape

There are at least three other early concrete station buildings in the district: one at each of the former Greenhills, Swyncombe and Clarence Reserve Stations.


The Elms Farm Complex (Former) is significant as a cohesive set of predominantly 1870s farm buildings; constructed of the same materials (a rare and unusually extensive example of poured concrete) within a short period, and probably by the same architect. Together the buildings of the complex and their spatial arrangement provide an insight into the functional and social relationships at the core of a large nineteenth century pastoral estate. The Farm Complex also has significance for its association with original owners, pioneering Kaikoura and Otago entrepreneurs, the Bullen brothers.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Alves, John

No biography is currently available for this construction professional

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

The Elms Farm Complex (Former) at Puketa near Kaikoura consists of a homestead and six service and farm buildings. Constructed largely during the 1870s for entrepreneurial brothers George and [Frederick] Bullen, the predominantly concrete buildings present an unusual degree of architectural unity. The brief construction period and particular spatial arrangement of the complex also provide a snapshot into the functional and social relations of what was at the time the home farm for a large and complex pastoral operation.

The Elms was originally part of Kahutara Station, first taken up by whaler Robert Fyffe in the early 1850s. Brothers George and Frederick Bullen purchased the run from his estate for £14,575 in 1866. The Bullens originally left their home in [Crewkerne], Somerset, following the gold discoveries in Victoria in 1851. Many who made money from the rushes did not do so from wielding a pick and shovel, but from trading in goods and services with the mining population - and in this the Bullens were no exception. Opening a drapery in Melbourne, they prospered packing clothing and general merchandise into the goldfields. With an eye for the main chance, the brothers later left Australia, tailing the miners flocking to Otago following the discovery of gold there in 1861. A drapery business was begun in Dunedin, and branches soon followed in Queenstown, Arrowtown, and (after the discovery of gold in Westland in 1864) in Hokitika and Greymouth. In addition to (and perhaps as a consequence of) their commercial success, the Bullens also freeholded 6,000 acres of South Otago land. In spite of their prosperity however, the brothers sold up most of their interests in 1866, and moved to Kaikoura. Family tradition suggests that this was for George Bullen's health, but historian James Sherrard suggests that they may have sensed the transitory nature of gold fields prosperity.

Frederick and George held the Kahutara run for 30 years, until the Crown lease ran out. Further landholdings throughout the Kaikoura region were also acquired, including the neighbouring Greenhills run (for £13,084) in 1868. By the early 1890s the Bullens were grazing more 70,000 sheep, and had a very high reputation for their Merinos. Although Frederick retired from active management of the estate and returned to England in 1883, George remained to manage their interests. Despite the loss of much of the original Kahutara Run in 1896, compensatory Crown grants and further purchases maintained the large extent of the Bullens estate. In 1907 George sold much of his lands to a syndicate for £210, 000, and retired to Christchurch where he died in 1912 at the age of eighty.

When the Bullens divested themselves of most of their Otago holdings in 1866, one they did retain was a controlling interest in the Scandanavian quartz reefs in the Skippers area of the upper Shotover. In 1874 George floated the Phoenix Quartz Mining Company to operate what became known as the Bullendale mine. For a decade, as prospecting tunnels were driven without payable results, profits from the brothers' Kaikoura runs were directed into keeping the mining enterprise afloat. Eventually however the mine began to show greater promise, and by the mid 1880s the Bullen brothers had erected the world's first electrically driven stamping battery, and were employing as many as eighty men. In 1893 the Bullendale interest was profitably disposed of to the English Achilles Gold-mining Company.

After moving to their new Kaikoura run, the Bullens' initially dwelt at Kahutara House on the south bank of the Kahutara River. This however became too small for their requirements and was frequently cut off from Kaikoura by floods. Consequently the brothers had architect John Alves of Dunedin design them a two-storey concrete house for a Crown lease property between the lower reaches of the Kahutara and Kowhai Rivers. This new estate they named The Elms. Completed in 1875, the eighteen-room house was surrounded by handsome grounds and substantial concrete farm buildings, including a granary, stables and gatehouse. The subsequent house-warming attracted guests from around the district.

In March 1887 The Elms was the venue for a large champagne lunch, part of three days of festivities to celebrate the opening of the road south to Canterbury. Thirty years later, the property played a small part in another milestone of New Zealand's transport history, the first flight between the North and South Islands. An Avro, piloted by Canterbury Aviation Company chief flying instructor E. Dickson and a crew of two, took off from the company's aerodrome at Sockburn, Christchurch, at 7 am on August 25 1920, but had to make an emergency landing at The Elms to refuel. The flight then continued to pre-arranged rendezvous at Kaikoura and Blenheim, before landing at Trentham in the early afternoon.

Although much of the Bullen estate was sold to the Christchurch-based Greenhills syndicate in 1907, George Bullen retained a large property for division between his two sons Francis (Frank) and William. William inherited the homestead buildings, adjacent lands and The Elms name. Frank's new farm, The Lakes, lay inland to the south west. In 1926 William Bullen mortgaged his property to the NZ Farmers' Cooperative Association of Canterbury. The reason for this is unknown, but it was probably the intervention of the Great Depression that resulted in him losing The Elms to his mortgager at the end of 1930. William reluctantly moved to a small property at Goose Bay, five kilometres south of The Elms, where he died in 1943. Following their takeover, the Farmers Cooperative placed a succession of managers on the property.

In May 1942, the Blenheim-based Home Guard Group 9C raised two units of mounted troops. Reflecting the pastoral nature of Marlborough province, both mounted rifle units consisted mainly of musterers. One of these units, known affectionately as the 'hillbillies', apparently had a base at the by-then unoccupied Elms homestead, until all mounted Home Guard were put into reserve in June 1943.

In 1945 The Elms was acquired by the government under the Servicemen's Settlement and Land Sales Act (1943) for the settlement of discharged servicemen. Farming operations continued until the property was subdivided during the late 1940s into two dairy farms, a sheep farm and a small 'lifestyle' block.

The lifestyle block, containing the homestead, garage and stables, was purchased by farmer Hugh Boyd in 1949. Boyd carried out further subdivision before selling a core property of 10 hectares (including the buildings) to contractor Thomas Edgar in 1952. In 1992 the Edgar family purchased the fee-simple of this property from the Crown, and retain it today.

Also in 1949, the sheep farm - a property containing both the granary and gatehouse - was sold to farmer John Smith, who named it Llewellyn. In 1963 Smith transferred the property to farmer Bryan Seddon, who subsequently renamed it Acacia Downs. The granary remains with the Seddon family today, but the gatehouse was subdivided off on a small parcel in 1992, and sold two years later.

The woolshed, men's quarters and manager's house were incorporated into one of the dairy farms, and sold to Arnold Leslie in 1947. Leslie occupied the former manager's house himself, and had farm worker Owen Gray convert the derelict Men's Quarters into a small staff residence. As it was redundant, the estate's old woolshed was demolished about this time. Leslie continued to operate the town supply dairy farm until 1972, when his son Paul, who was living in the converted former bunkhouse, took the 190 acre property over. A year later, Paul Leslie sold his property to farmer Colclough McKenzie. McKenzie maintained a sharemilker on the property until 1980, when it was transferred to his son Hamish. Hamish and Katherine McKenzie live in the converted men's quarter, to which they have made have made further additions and alterations. The former manager's house is currently rented out.

Physical Description

Eight kilometres south of the isolated Marlborough township of Kaikoura, State Highway One emerges from the coastal hills of the Hawkesbury Range on to the Kaikoura plain at the Kahutara River and the small community of Peketa. A kilometre north of Peketa, situated between the highway and the Main Trunk Rail Line are the various farm buildings of former estate, The Elms.

The Elms Homestead is a large square two-storey bay villa. The double-height opposing bay windows are linked across the front elevation by a galleried verandah. A single storey lean-to addition abuts the northern (side) elevation. Immediately to the east of the house is a single garage, with the date '1916' set into its front gable.

A short distance to the north of the house are the former stables, which now serve as a shed. This hip-roofed two-storey building retains many original features, including stall divisions and a cobbled floor. A lean-to at the rear apparently served originally as the estate blacksmith's 'shop'.

Twenty metres to the west of the former stables is the former granary. On a separate property since subdivision in 1949, this gabled building has been altered to serve as a woolshed. A large modern covered yard extends out to the north of the building.

500 metres to the east of the homestead on the side of State Highway One (and marking a former driveway) is a hipped gable roofed former gatehouse, with two squat chimneys. Originally in two small apartments providing accommodation for the coachman and gardener, by the 1930s the building housed two ploughmen and their families. The building is now a single residence.

500 metres to the NW of the homestead buildings, and once linked to them by another drive, is a cluster of farm buildings. Originally this group included a cookhouse, men's quarters, a manager's house and (slightly further away) a woolshed. The woolshed has since been demolished, and the cookhouse relocated. Today, the former men's quarters and the former manager's house both serve as residences.


Monolithic concrete construction began in New Zealand with the erection of a substantial homestead near Mosgiel in 1862, but it was not until the 1870s that the construction method was widely adopted. During that decade a significant number of structures were erected, including houses, churches, hotels and industrial buildings. Use of the material for farm buildings was particularly common. Geoffrey Thornton suggests that the rapid adoption of the material at this time was due to a combination of circumstances, such as a willingness to try new techniques, a lack of skilled labour, apparent fire and earthquake resistance, and a shortage of timber and/or stone in some districts.

The earliest remaining visible evidence of concrete construction in New Zealand is a retaining wall dating from 1857 at Fyffe House in Kaikoura. In addition to this example however, there is an unusual concentration of concrete buildings - particularly farm buildings - dating from the 1870s in the Kaikoura district. Thornton regards this as a 'remarkable local use of an innovative material'. The extensive adoption of concrete construction in the district at this comparatively early date was probably due to a lack of millable timber, and readily available lime. In addition to The Elms Farm Complex, there are individual concrete station buildings dating from the 1870s at Greenhills, Swyncombe, and Clarence Reserve. One of the earliest remaining farmhouses in the district, 'Pine Terrace' (c1875: Record Number 2913, Cat. II) at Hapuku also has stout concrete chimneys. After the initial flurry of concrete construction at this time, employment of the technique in the Kaikoura district abated but did not cease, with concrete buildings from every decade through to the mid twentieth century evident in the district today. Amongst these are the Presbyterian Church Hall (1892), Manse Stable (1912), The Lakes homestead (c1912), Club Hotel (1916), Adelphi Hotel (1920), Cinema (c1935), Council Chambers (c1940) and Memorial Hall (c1945).

Although there are a number of concrete farm buildings on the NZHPT Register, the various structures of The Elms Farm Complex are distinguished by their comparatively early date - important particularly in the Kaikoura region where they represent the beginnings of a tradition of concrete construction. The Elms Farm Complex is also distinguished from the majority of concrete farm buildings on the register by the unusually extensive employment of the material. Many registered places feature one or two concrete structures, but at The Elms concrete is ubiquitous. The only comparable place on the register might be the substantial 1871 buildings of the Abbotsford Farm Steading (Record Number 7579, Category I) in Outram, Otago.

Notable Features

The Elms Homestead (Former)

The Elms Garage (Former)

The Elms Stables (Former)

The Elms Granary (Former)

The Elms Men's Quarters (Former)

The Elms Manager's House (Former)

The Elms Gatehouse (Former)

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1875 -
Homestead, Gatehouse, Granary, Stables and Men's Quarters constructed.

Original Construction
1900 -
Manager's House constructed

1910 -
Gabled single storey addition to the north elevation of the Homestead.

Original Construction
1916 -
Garage constructed.

Some stalls in the stables removed; sunroom added to Manager's House.

1947 -
Conversion of bunkhouse; addition of store and sun rooms.

Gabled roof on Homestead addition replaced with lean-to

Granary converted to woolshed; covered yard added to woolshed; Gatehouse converted to single residence.

Rooms added to Manager's House; Homestead verandah reconstructed using steel posts; Homestead front door blocked off.

Two fireplaces blocked off in Gatehouse; attic room windows and staircase of Gatehouse removed.

Additions to bunkhouse (Men's' Quarters).

Some sash windows replaced with aluminium casements.

Construction Details

The homestead, garage, stables, granary, gatehouse and the men's quarters are constructed of 'no-fines' poured concrete, using a mixture of river shingle and Portland cement. The minimal amount of cement used has resulted in a rather porous texture. The buildings have been rendered in cement plaster incised to resemble large blocks. This was done both for appearance and waterproofing. The manager's house is a timber building. All are roofed with corrugated iron.

Completion Date

10th April 2007

Report Written By

Gareth Wright

Information Sources

Sherrard, 1966

J. Sherrard, Kaikoura: A History of the District Kaikoura: Kaikoura County Council, 1966.

Thornton, 1986

Geoffrey Thornton, The New Zealand Heritage of Farm Buildings, Auckland, 1986

Thornton, 1996

Geoffrey Thornton, Cast in Concrete: Concrete Construction in New Zealand 1850-1939, Auckland, 1996

Other Information

Information in [square brackets] indicates changes made to the Register entry after the Board confirmed the registration in May 2007.

A fully referenced registration report is available from the NZHPT Southern Region Office

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.