Totara Estate Homestead

583 Alma-Maheno Road, State Highway 1, ALMA

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In secluded grounds stands the Totara Estate Homestead built in the late 1860s for the manager of the New Zealand and Australian Land Company’s Totara Estate, located ten kilometres south of Oamaru. Totara Estate Homestead has historic, architectural, aesthetic and archaeological significance, showing the way of life and status of the farm manager John McPherson in nineteenth century Otago and recalling the significant role of land companies in the development of New Zealand history. Totara Estate was established in the1860s by runholders Mathew Holmes and Henry Campbell. Holmes and Campbell broke in the land and established the nucleus of the run close to the Waiareka Stream. The New Zealand and Australian Land Company, one of the large private land companies which formed in the nineteenth century, bought Totara Estate in 1866. After a flood in early 1868 with the loss of nine lives a new site was developed on higher land – the upper farm – focused around the Totara Estate Homestead. One of the first undertakings of the NZALC was to create a centre for the estate, the homestead – Totara House. In October 1867 tenders were called for the construction of the two storey stone residence, completed the following year. The house was to have cost £1,300, but ran over budget and the manager Robert Macaulay had to pay the difference of £700 out of his pocket. Who the architect was has not been identified. Totara Estate Homestead was built in 1868 and its associated farm buildings (men’s quarters, stable, barn and carcase shed, now owned by Heritage New Zealand) are thought to date from the same time. The upper farm with its grand Oamaru stone homestead set in extensive grounds and the associated outbuildings was the centre of the social and working life of Totara Estate. Totara Estate Homestead is built as a gentleman’s residence: two-storeyed Oamaru stone, with extensive gardens. The house is built in a restrained style with the main elevation notable for its faceted bay window, dentils and decorative quoins. In the early 1880s the New Zealand and Australia Land Company decided to prepare the stock for the planned first export shipment of frozen meat at Totara Estate. A complex of buildings and structures developed to provide the facilities – a meat house, killing shed and associated pig yards. The work was overseen by manager John Macpherson who lived at the homestead. Totara Estate, then, played a pioneering role in the establishment of New Zealand’s frozen meat industry, and those early decisions were made over the board table at the homestead. In 1906 manager John Macpherson bought the homestead block from the New Zealand and Australian Land Company. He farmed the homestead block until his retirement in 1920. Since that time Totara Estate Homestead, has remained in private ownership.

Totara Estate Homestead. Image supplied courtesy of John Fisher Macpherson from Macpherson family album | Unknown | John Fisher Macpherson



List Entry Information


Detailed List Entry



List Entry Status

Historic Place Category 2


Private/No Public Access

List Number


Date Entered

4th April 1983

Date of Effect

4th April 1983

City/District Council

Waitaki District


Otago Region

Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 1 DP 17093 (RT OT8C/1411), Otago Land District, and the building known as Totara Estate Homestead thereon. Refer to the extent map tabled at the Rarangi Korero Committee meeting on 9 March 2017.

Legal description

Lot 1 DP 17093 (RT OT8C/1411), Otago Land District

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