Hayes Live Days begin

Hayes Engineering – the historic place at Oturehua which became the cradle of ‘Number 8 wire’ innovation in the late 1800s – is coming alive again.


Ken Gillespie points at a board while surrounded by the shadow and technology of Hayes Engineering.
Volunteer Ken Gillespie leading an operational tour of the Hayes workshop. Photo: HNZPTexpand/collapse

After months of winter hibernation, the unmissable heritage attraction on the Otago Central Rail Trail is preparing to crank up its machinery for another series of live Sunday tours beginning on 20 November.

Led by the incomparable virtuoso of machinery Ken Gillespie the tours are an amazing opportunity to see the extraordinary range of ‘down on the farm’ mechanical technology in full flight.

Once the home and property of millwright and engineer Ernest Hayes, this Tohu Whenua today cared for by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga has become a kind of living shrine celebrating the inventiveness and ingenuity of Hayes and his descendants. The still-functioning workshop was originally used by employees to manufacture Kiwi farming equipment; products, like the now iconic wire strainer, which are still used on farms today.

“Visitors to Hayes Engineering love seeing the machinery in operation, and we are so grateful to Ken and his team of volunteers who give up their time on these Sundays to share this dynamic heritage experience with people,” says interim Property Lead Sarah Sharp.

“It really is an unbelievable experience seeing this workshop, which played such a significant role in shaping Aotearoa New Zealand agriculture, come alive right here in the middle of Central Otago.”

Tours take place every Sunday at 1.30pm (except Sundays closest to Christmas and New Year). Places are limited to 26 people per tour and tour admission is $20 per adult  ($10 children over 14). Afterwards, visitors are able to explore the beautifully restored 1920s mud brick Hayes Homestead and grounds at leisure. The much-loved Hannah’s Cafe and Gift Shop is also on-site, offering great coffee and fabulous home-made food.

Due to popularity, bookings for the operational tour are essential. Please contact Hayes directly on 03 444 5801 or email hayes@heritage.org.nz.

John O'Hare