Waipuna Station Homestead (Former)

Waipuna Road, Grey River Valley, Waipuna

  • Waipuna Station Homestead (Former). Northern and western elevations.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Taken By: Les Wright. Date: 21/07/2005.
  • Waipuna Station Homestead (Former). January 1989. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Taken By: Trish McCormack.
  • Waipuna Station Homestead (Former). January 1989. Image included in Field Record Form Collection.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga. Taken By: Trish McCormack.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 2 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 3033 Date Entered 4th April 2008 Date of Effect 4th April 2008


Extent of List Entry

Extent includes part of the land described as Lot 2 DP 43810 (RT 541145), Westland Land District and the building known as Waipuna Station Homestead (Former) including its attached earlier cottage thereon. (Refer to extent map tabled at Rārangi Kōrero meeting 9 June 2022)

City/District Council

Grey District


West Coast Region

Legal description

Lot 2 DP 43810 (RT 541145), Westland Land District


The Waipuna Station Homestead (Former) was built in 1871-2 as the third home of Samuel Meggitt Mackley (1830-1911) who established the first farm on the western side of the Southern Alps in 1862. This enterprise was a major pioneering achievement in the history of permanent European settlement on the West Coast, before the days of the gold rushes.

Mackley with his wife and baby daughter, first lived in a primitive manuka poles and bark structure, later replaced by a four roomed pit-sawn timber home which their expanding family soon outgrew. The large two storeyed, timber homestead was built, attached to the earlier cottage, in 1871-2. The site is elevated with the house facing north to receive sun and views out over the upper Grey Valley. It is a handsome structure, its size, plan and styling typical of many of the larger homes built at this date through New Zealand. It represents the family's status and the success of their farming endeavours in just ten years on the property. Many notable visitors were entertained graciously here and the house became a landmark for the whole of the Grey Valley. Though the house has been uninhabited since the 1970s and is now in a decayed state, it remains the principal historic feature on the site of the original Westland farm.

After his arrival in Nelson in 1855 Mackley undertook several exploratory journeys to the south-west region participating in 1860 in the signing of the Arahura Deed of Settlement for the European purchase of the West Coast. With an understanding of the area, he successfully applied for a land grant of 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) in the upper Grey River Valley which he considered the place with greatest potential. After setting up his wife and small daughter on the property he journeyed to Canterbury via the Amuri Pass and drove the first sheep and cattle back to stock his West Coast farm. Over the following decades Mackley became a prominent, widely respected resident in the Grey Valley, successfully undertaking a variety of business ventures while expanding and improving the farm. He had some medical skills which were a considerable benefit to the prospectors and settlers who later came to the valley. The farm remains in the ownership of his descendants.

The Waipuna Homestead (Former) has significance in representing Westland's farming origins, it was the home of a notable pioneering settler and dates from the earliest years of the West Coast's permanent European settlement

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Waipuna Station Homestead (Former) is of special historical significance in the development of farming on the West Coast. It is the centrepiece of the West Coast's first farm, Waipuna Station, established by the Mackley family in 1862 before the West Coast gold rushes began. Replacing a rough whare and incorporating a modest cottage, the homestead was symbolic of the owner's success in what at first may have seemed an over ambitious enterprise, to farm a wilderness and become the first European settlers in a sparsely inhabited region.

The Waipuna Station Homestead (Former) has architectural significance as an example of a fine quality farm homestead dating from the early years of permanent European settlement on the West Coast. Designed by William Craven Mirfin, it was a gracious two-storeyed homestead and a landmark in the upper Grey Valley. Its plan and style reflects the owner's status and success achieved just ten years after he first established his farm.

There are also significant cultural links with the house for the Grey Valley. Over many years it has been admired as the hub of the district's best known property and the home of a prominent family. The Mackleys were hosts to notable visitors and played a leading role in the developing community. Although the building's condition has declined to the point where it was used as shearers' quarters and eventually became uninhabitable, its importance remains in representing the beginning of European settlement in the area.

Category of historic place (section 23(2): This place was assigned Category II status having regard to the following criteria: a, b, e, g & i.

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

The Waipuna Station Homestead (Former) reflects an important aspect of New Zealand history, namely the development of colonial farming and specifically its spread westward in the early years when access was difficult to this part of New Zealand. The house also reflects the prosperity achieved on the farm with support by the West Coast gold rushes.

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

Besides being associated with the events mentioned above, the house is associated with the Mackleys, the West Coast's first 'permanent' European settlers. Two years before taking up his land, Samuel Meggitt Mackley was a witness to the West Coast Deed of Sale executed for the Crown at Mawhera Pa by James MacKay on 21 May 1860, more than four years before the gold rushes.

(e)The community association with, or public esteem for, the place:

There are strong community associations with and public esteem for the house because of its former role as the homestead for the West Coast's first farm and one of the region's largest farming properties. Now owned and managed by the Ferguson family, direct descendants of Samuel Mackley, it continues as one of the West Coast's most successful farming properties. Its history and significance are widely known and fully recognised. In 2007, the West Coast Branch of the NZHPT has prepared a bronze plaque to be placed on a boulder positioned on State Highway 7, identifying the site of the West Coast's first farm for those travelling past.

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

Designed by William Mirfin, the house has architectural merit, demonstrating the status rapidly acquired by the early landholder. It also incorporates an earlier, more basic cottage. Both were built of timber, the most readily available building material in this region. The unfortunate inclusion of kahikatea (white pine) in the later portion, now borer ridden, has contributed to its deteriorated condition.

(i) The importance of the identifying historic places known to date from early periods of New Zealand settlement:

Both the house, 1871-2 and cottage, 1870, are known to date from the earliest period of farming settlement in Westland. Compared with buildings in other areas of New Zealand these are not especially early dates, but they are important examples in relation to the expansion of Westland's permanent settlement that stood apart from the gold rush's impact.

Category II.

In meeting the above criteria the Waipuna Station Homestead (Former) merits Category II status. As the centrepiece of the first farm on the West Coast the homestead has many historic values relating to the development of farming in what was an inaccessible part of New Zealand. Dating from 1871-2, an early period in the West Coast's permanent settlement, the fine building constructed from local timber, illustrated Samuel Mackley's status and success with his farming endeavours after just ten years on his originally untamed property. He was one of the very first permanent European settlers in this area and his farm produce found a ready market with the influx of gold prospectors in the Grey River Valley.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Mirfin, William Craven

William Craven Mirfin, engineer. A great-grandson, John Mirfin of Geraldine, has the original plans for the house, signed by Mirfin and dated August, 1871.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Waipuna Homestead in the upper Grey River Valley, was the home of Samuel Megitt Mackley (1829-1911), the first European settler to establish a farm in Westland.

Although the West Coast of the South Island was the first part of New Zealand sighted by a European, Abel Tasman in 1642, it was one of the last areas to be settled by Maori because of its inhospitable coastline and inland mountain barrier. When Europeans first ventured into Westland in the nineteenth century the local Maori, Poutini Ngaitahu, had no permanent settlements in the Mawhera, later Grey River Valley, though they frequently made summer visits from the favoured river mouth, coastal bases to gather fern roots, snare birds and catch eels. Extensive valleys like this one were also used as travel routes by Maori.

European settlement on the West Coast was similarly slow because of the difficulty of access and the rugged terrain. The Nelson Provincial Government which administered the northern section of the region sent explorers into the area to investigate the potential of the area for the extraction of minerals and for settlement. James Mackay (1831-1912) assistant native secretary to the Nelson Government, was instructed in 1858 to purchase Ngai Tahu titles to the Kaikoura block, most of what would be the Marlborough province, and the Arahura block, virtually all of the West Coast. Fluent in Maori, he was able to negotiate sales agreements, allowing only rather restricted native reserves. He succeeded first with the purchase of the Kaikoura area and on 21 May 1860 executed the deed of sale for the 7,500 acre (3,035 hectares) Arahura block, extending from Kahurangi Point in the north and south to Milford. Mackay also established a route from Nelson down the Buller River and then branching across to meet the Grey Valley, thus avoiding the precipitous coastal route taken by earlier explorers. Meantime, the Canterbury Provincial Council was eagerly seeking a usable pass over the Southern Alps from Canterbury.

A witness to the deed of sale of the Arahura block at Mawhera Pa was Samuel Meggitt Mackley, (1830-1911) who had met up with Mackay while making independent explorations of the region. Mackley, born in Leeds in 1830, was the son of a doctor and had begun medical studies but because of poor health decided to migrate to New Zealand. He arrived in Nelson c. 1855 and worked there and in Collingwood as a chemist while looking for land to purchase so that he might take up life as a farmer. By this time little land was available and he journeyed further south to the West Coast. When he met Mackay near Okarito he found him suffering from an incapacitating leg infection caused by speargrass wounds. Mackley's medical training enabled him to treat this successfully and his patient gratefully accepted him as an assistant in his travels south to Jackson's Bay. On their return to Mawhera, Mackley was asked to be one of the three witnesses on the Arahura Deed of Settlement

Mackley had carefully examined the potential of the West Coast valleys for farming activities. Back in Nelson, on 25 June 1860 he applied for about 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) of grass flats in the Pohaturoa or Upper Grey Valley. There was other good fertile land in this valley but he selected this locale which required less clearance and he considered it had potential for gold as well as for farming. He had noted traces of gold in the Buller while returning to Nelson and later claimed he was the first to discover West Coast gold. In 1862 he moved from Nelson to the West Coast with his wife Mary Elizabeth Allan Trist (1836-1915) and their first child Emily, establishing the first farm on the western side of the Southern Alps. Their first home on the property they called Waipuna, was just 12x9 metres, made largely of manuka poles and bark. The attractions of the chosen site, with views out across the river flats, remain apparent today. Early in 1863 Mackley travelled to Christchurch via the Arahura Saddle (Amuri Pass), bought 50 sheep and six in-calf heifers which he drove back to the West Coast by the same route. Waipuna Station prospered, with local markets boosted by the Grey Valley gold rush in 1865 and the development of quartz mining around Reefton five years later. Produce including vegetables, butter and bread were sold to the influx of prospectors. In1866 he returned to England to settle family affairs, probably bringing household goods home with him. In 1870 the manuka home was replaced by a more substantial four-roomed cottage of pit-sawn timber to accommodate the growing family.

About 1871/2 a substantial two-storeyed residence, designed by William Craven Mirfin, was built adjacent to the cottage. Yorkshire born Mirfin, who had migrated to Australia and then to Nelson, purchased land at Otututu, near Ikamatua where his son established a farm shortly after the 1862 date of the Mackleys' farm. The two families were well acquainted, the first visit by Mrs Mirfin to the Mackley homestead causing astonishment to the young children who had never seen another European woman. It was announced to their mother that 'something like you is coming!' William Mirfin Senior had skills in engineering and it is recorded that he designed a lighthouse and gasworks. The plans he first drew for a new Mackley homestead did not provide for retention of the cottage and some further alterations were made when the house was constructed; the house was enlarged slightly, three rather than two windows were included along the north and south facades and the stairway's position was moved to the other side of the main hall. Besides providing plenty of space for the family that grew to include eleven children, it became a landmark in the Waipuna Valley and was also noted for its surrounding hedgerows, trees and gardens.

Samuel Mackley was an industrious and well respected man. He became a prominent figure on the West Coast; representing the Grey Valley in Nelson during the period of Provincial Government. In 1875 his occupations were listed in Crerar's Directory and West Coast Almanac as 'hotel keeper, brewer, butcher, store keeper, gold buyer and farmer'. His family later described their grandparents in affectionate and respectful terms, recalling Mackley's collection of both surgical and dental instruments and his work in healing visiting patients. They remembered the formality of dinners with the best dress worn and the grand silver and china that were used for notable guests, while children dined with servants in the kitchen. It was the Mackleys who established the first school in the district, providing books and accommodation for the teacher (The large room at the north-west corner of the house's upper floor is noted as 'School Room' on Mirfin's plan for the homestead.) The Cyclopedia of 1905 states that Mr Mackley's farm 'has been developed from its wild and natural condition into a good grazing run, on which he depastures 300 head of cattle and 1,800 sheep'.

On his death in 1911, management passed to his son Ernest while family trustees retained ownership. The following years were less successful for the farm and Ernest died in 1946. George Herbert Ferguson who was married to Samuel Mackley's granddaughter, Irene, one of Ernest's nieces, came to the property as manager with their son George Keith, who shortly took control. In 1959 the younger George and his wife purchased the property from the trustees, retaining this long term family ownership. They soon built a new homestead and use of the old homestead decreased, being used occasionally by shearers and hunters. By 1971 Waipuna had grown and prospered, becoming 'the largest sheep and cattle station in Westland province and a leading agricultural showplace of the West Coast'. Since then the farming operations have successfully diversified to include agro-forestry and for a period until recently gold mining was carried out. Some three decades ago, the family had decided that because of the old building's decaying timber and general condition it should be demolished, but this has not occurred, perhaps because of the place it holds in their history as well as that of Westland.

Physical Description

The former Waipuna Homestead is located on a low terrace with a view across flat pastures to the Grey River Valley. An assortment of native and exotic trees and shrubs surround the house, but there is no trace of the drive that once curved around to the front entrance on the north-west side. It is approached today across farm paddocks and the initial impression of the house is its somewhat forlorn state, because it has been uninhabited for many years.

The two storeyed main part of the house (1871-2) is rectangular, measuring approximately 12 metres across the front and 10 metres along the sides. The northern, western and southern facades were originally sheltered by verandahs, but only an indication of their presence now remains. The front door at the west opens onto a wide hall running right through the buildings, with two rooms on each side and a U-shaped staircase in the south-eastern portion. All these rooms appear to have fireplaces, although those in the south rooms have collapsed beneath material that has fallen from upstairs. Off the upstairs landing are four large rooms and a small room directly above the downstairs entranceway. Neither the small room nor the north-eastern room has a fireplace, and those in the southern rooms have collapsed, leaving a large hole in the south-eastern portion of the roof. The initial plans drawn by W.C. Mirfin indicate the uses of the rooms.

The corrugated iron roof is hipped, with the ridge running north-south. Wall cladding is 175x25 mm weatherboard over 100x50 mm framing, and the most common form of interior lining is thin timber panelling with plain or moulded battens. Flooring is mainly tongue-and-groove timber of 135mm surface width. Most floor covering remnants appear to be linoleum. There are three double-hung sash windows along most walls, plus glazing around the front door. Remains of a verandah are evident along the north wall.

The cottage section (1870) extends east from the north-eastern corner, its front wall in line with the front edge of the verandah remnant. Measuring approximately 13x5 metres, it is divided into three rooms. The middle one, apparently the kitchen, has a brick chimney and hearth. Besides outside doors on the north and south sides there is an internal door connecting the cottage with the main part of the house. Immediately east are the dilapidated remains of some outbuildings. The cottage has weatherboard walls, corrugated iron gable roof and multi-paned double-hung windows.

Construction Dates

1860 -
Samuel Meggitt Mackley applied for 4,000 acres (1,620 hectares) in the Upper Grey Valley.

1862 -
Mackley family moved onto the land, living in a manuka pole dwelling.

1863 -
Run stocked with sheep and cattle driven over from Canterbury via Amuri Pass.

Original Construction
1870 -
Single-storeyed homestead of pit-sawn timber built.

Original Construction
1871 - 1872
Two-storeyed homestead built.

1911 -
Samuel Mackley died, ownership passing to his son Ernest.

1946 -
Ernest Mackley died.

Original Construction
New house built.

1950 - 1970
The old homestead used for occasional shearers' accommodation.

1971 -
Owners decided the old building should be demolished but no action was taken.

Construction Details

Two-storey rimu and kahikatea house with timber pile foundations and corrugated iron hipped roof.

Completion Date

19th March 2008

Report Written By

L. Wright / P. Wilson

Information Sources

Cyclopedia of New Zealand, 1906

Cyclopedia Company, Industrial, descriptive, historical, biographical facts, figures, illustrations, Wellington, N.Z, 1897-1908, Vol. 5, Nelson, Marlborough, Westland, 1906

Graham, 1996

Frank Graham, Coastin' Along: a series of stories originating in Westland and particularly concerning the Mackleys, the Butlers and the Fergusons, Nelson, Black Cat Productions, c. 1996.

Kay, 1960

Rupert A Kay, (ed.). Westland's Golden Century, 1860-1960: an official souvenir of Westland's centenary, Greymouth, Westland Centennial Council, 1960.

May, 1962

Philip Ross May. The West Coast Gold Rushes, 1962.

2nd (revised) edition, Christchurch, Pegasus Press, 1967.

Other Information

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.