Kawarau Station Homestead and Woolshed

847 Bannockburn Road, Bannockburn

  • Kawarau Station Homestead.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Angela Middleton.
  • Kawarau Station Woolshed.
    Copyright: NZ Historic Places Trust. Taken By: Angela Middleton.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Private/No Public Access
List Number 7619 Date Entered 24th June 2005 Date of Effect 24th June 2005


Extent of List Entry

Part of the land in Country Section 1 Block IV Bannockburn Survey District, and the buildings (homestead and woolshed), fixtures and fittings thereon. See plan in Appendix 2 of the Registration Report.

City/District Council

Central Otago District


Otago Region

Legal description

Country Sec I Blk IV Bannockburn SD (RT OT66/157)

Location description

Around five kilometres south of Bannockburn on the left hand side of Bannockburn Road.


Kawarau Station is outstanding significance was one of the first large stations in the Cromwell /Bannockburn area, originally extending almost from Clyde to Gibbston, with the Kawarau River forming the northern boundary of the run. The Kawarau Homestead and Woolshed date from the first occupancy of the Run, they provide evidence of the buildings associated with the establishment of the Run (particularly when compared with survey plans drawn in the late 1850s-early 1860s), and the changes of use which provide insight into the development of the Run.

The Kawarau Station buildings are among the most significant of farm station buildings in Central Otago. Kawarau Station itself is significant in the history of the Cromwell / Bannockburn area, being one of the large early runs taken up by the first European settlers in the late 1850s. Hence this station is integrally important in the history of Central Otago pastoralism. These structures form a complex associated with the early methods of pastoral farming, when large numbers of workers were employed on the station as well as additional seasonal workers such as shearers, in the years prior to mechanisation, and also provide insight the changing uses of the buildings over time.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The Kawarau Station buildings are among the outstanding farm station buildings in Central Otago. They date from the earliest years of occupation of the station, being built in the early 1860s. Kawarau Station itself is significant in the history of the Cromwell / Bannockburn area, being one of the large early runs taken up by the first European settlers in the late 1850s. Hence this station is integrally important in the history of Central Otago pastoralism, and its links with the Australian and New Zealand Land Company, financed by Scottish capitalists, provides a broader picture of the expansion of British capital. The Run was taken up at the time when the prospects of wealth from sheep farming were beginning to be realised, and when the squatters were gathering their collective power to protect their own interests, conflicting with the ideas espoused by other settlers who promoted wider access to land for those of modest means.

The Kawarau Station buildings form the core of the buildings associated with the early period of development of one of the largest and most dominant forces both the local landscape and the history of pastoralism in Otago. The buildings provide insight into pastoralism, when large numbers of workers were employed on the station as well as additional seasonal workers such as shearers, in the years prior to mechanisation.

The history of Kawarau Station is also associated with the early days of gold mining, as the station once incorporated land that was subsequently mined at Bannockburn and Quartzville, and the station was a source of supplies and sometimes shelter for miners, while the miners themselves were a source of labour for the station. In its history and relationship with the miners and the wider community it is a vital part of the story and development of the area.

The homestead and woolshed are architecturally significant for their vernacular colonial style, the range of materials used in their construction, and outstanding in their association with the first European settlement of the area.

The Kawarau Station homestead is a special building, consisting of three different sections originating from the late 1850s-early 1860s which marked the establishment of pastoral runs in Central Otago. The three earliest buildings that now make up the homestead were built separately as the "house", "store" and "men's house", reflecting the early functioning of the run. Changes in farming practice and use are reflected in the fabric of these buildings which were joined together at a later period, and would reveal much with closer inspection. The homestead is characterised by its modest scale and furnishing and setting in established gardens.

The homestead is architecturally significant both for this structural history (and the original functions of the building sections) as well as the materials from which it is built. The homestead was built from locally available materials such as schist, some of which has been plastered. The interior rammed earth walls and original earth floor suggest a paucity of timber in the area at the time the station was first leased. The long part of the T-structure, formed by the original house and store sections, is notable for its gabled form, windows and low veranda, while the unplastered random rubble schist, with larger stones at the quoins of the original men's house has its own elegance.

The woolshed is equally significant architecturally, being one of the first structures in the area along with the homestead. Thornton considers that the building has "great character", while its aesthetic significance is contributed to by the stonework, "coursed random rubble of a decidedly attractive nature with many hues in reds, browns and yellows", and the roof unpainted "in the Central Otago tradition."

The station has the potential to inform us about the archaeology of pastoralism, while the area of the station homestead and woolshed has archaeological values in itself. These structures date to the early 1860s; other outbuildings such as stables are visible on the earliest plan, and such structures, whether standing or not, are highly likely to leave subsurface archaeological remains, both structural and material.

The modest homestead and woolshed constructed of local materials reflecting their dramatic setting in the valley between the Carrick and Cairnmuir Ranges have aesthetic value.

The Kawarau Station buildings have cultural significance and value from their association with the first European occupation of the station and their connection with the early years of gold mining. Kawarau Station's history and integration with the local community over a long period does much to reveal the cultural of the early settlement of the Bannockburn and wider Central Otago area.

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

Kawarau Station is representative of the history of pastoralism and reflects an important aspect of New Zealand's history, namely the first European settlement of inland Otago, to a large extent. The establishment of the Station, as a vast holding and its subsequent subdivision into smaller runs reflect the larger history of pastoralism in Otago, and more generally in New Zealand. Its ownership by the Australia and New Zealand Land Company, its later individual ownership also represent the changes in patterns of ownership and the political will in regard to the break up of large stations in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. In its relationship to the surrounding communities, both of farmers and miners it represents the integral role such properties had as the backbone of the area throughout the nineteenth century.

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

Kawarau Station provides knowledge of New Zealand's history, through its demonstration of the structures related to the early years of pastoralism, and through its history, as recounted by local historian J.C.Parcell's Heart of the Desert, provides valuable insight into the Station, its buildings, history and importance to the community.

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

The Kawarau station buildings are well known locally as historically important structures. While Thornton, who is only concerned with farm buildings, only mentions the woolshed in this context. Parcell's chapter on the history of the station makes mention of both structures and expresses the importance of the station as a whole in the history of Central Otago.

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

This part of inland Otago was first settled in the late 1850s. Kawarau Station and its buildings date from the late 1850s-early 1860s. The Kawarau Station buildings date from these, the first years of European occupation of the Cromwell / Bannockburn area.

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

The Kawarau Station Buildings form one of c.7 pastoral station complexes in the Central Otago region, the earliest buildings of which are still standing. These complexes, all dating to the first European settlement of inland Otago in the

opening years of pastoralism in that area, are a rare historic resource. As farm technologies change, such intact sites are increasingly valuable examples of past farming practices, histories and building types.

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

Kawarau Station forms a significant component of the extant Central Otago historic and cultural landscape. This is one of a small number of remaining buildings dating from the first years of pastoralism in the region, and shares with other such buildings similar building materials and a vernacular colonial design. Amongst such buildings, the Kawarau Station homestead and woolshed are outstanding for their vernacular architectural integrity and the early date of construction, and their representation of past farming practices.


Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maori occupation prior to European arrival in the Kawarau area is evidenced by an important moa-hunter archaeological site located at nearby Hawksburn. This site was excavated in the 1970s, uncovering earth ovens, tool making areas and temporary shelters as well as the remains of moa and other birds.

The history of large sheep runs such as Kawarau Station dates to the earliest years of European settlement of inland Otago. Following the establishment of Dunedin in 1848, the Waste Lands Board was set up in 1853 to allocate pastoral runs outside the original Otago Block. Many of these blocks were located in Central Otago, with those exploring this new country often applying for the first leases. After the leases were granted, freehold title to a homestead block, known as a pre-emptive right, was also granted. Most run holders stocked their land with sheep, although a few also ran cattle. Sheep were brought into Southland and Otago ports from 1853 onwards; others drove flocks south from Nelson, Marlborough and Canterbury although this was a difficult trek through country with many rivers and no bridges. Poisonous tutu and wild dogs also took a heavy toll on flocks with numbers much reduced by the time they reached their destinations.

The Kawarau Station sits within the Bannockburn area, much of which was once incorporated into the station itself. According to Stephenson et al, Kawarau Station was one of the "big five" stations of Central Otago. The others were Earnscleugh, Morven Hills, Moutere, and Galloway. The run borders the Kawarau River, from which the station derives its name. There are various accounts of the first run holders at Kawarau. Historian Herries Beattie states that William Saunders, formerly a runholder in the Mackenzie Country, first took up the 80,000 acre run (no. 330) and that it was subsequently in the possession of Douglas, Alderson and Company. Other sources state that B. F. G. Alderson took up this run in 1858, acting for the New Zealand and Otago Agricultural and Land Investment Association which was later absorbed by the New Zealand and Australian Land Company.

Local historian Parcell states that the first resident manager was William McKenzie, followed by James Cowan in 1867, when 36,000 sheep were shorn. The station also ran a large number of cattle, and McKenzie, the first manager, had crops of ryegrass and hay growing by 1866. Rabbits posed a major problem from the early years and James Cowan organised a system of regular and continuous trapping and poisoning.

Land Information New Zealand records demonstrate that the freehold pre-emptive right of 92 acres was transferred to the New Zealand and Australian Land Company in June 1883.

An undated survey office plan of the pre-emptive right of 92 acres on Run 330, made out to Douglas Alderson & Co., and surveyed by John Connell, shows the woolshed, stables, men's house, store and house. On the plan the men's house and house are separated by the store, but these three structures were subsequently connected to form the homestead as it is today. A subsequent plan is dated 1878, surveyed by A. Pack. This post-dates the earlier, undated plan as it notes Connell's survey trig. This plan does not show the structures. The leases were held jointly by Alderson and John Douglas on behalf of the company.

In 1890 the nearby Hawkesburn Run was amalgamated with Kawarau Station; in 1895 it was enlarged again by the purchase of the Gibbston section of the Kawarau Falls Run to the west. In 1890 A.L. Brydone, nephew of Sir Thomas Brydone, general manager of the Australian and New Zealand Land Company in New Zealand, took over as station manager. He was replaced by Robert Jackson in 1903.

A third plan dated 1909, surveyed by Burton, shows the woolshed, now enlarged by the slightly lower section, as well as the homestead structures .

In 1910 the Liberal Government had a policy of subdividing the large runs. The Kawarau Station lease was not renewed on its expiry. The total area of 206,120 acres was subdivided into sixteen holdings. In 1916 station manager Robert Jackson bought part of the run which included the pre-emptive right, which, according to Parcell, included 13,600 acres of the original freehold homestead block and pastoral run of 13,600 acres. This block retained the station name. Jackson remained at Kawarau until his death.

The area was subsequently reduced to 11,900 acres when the Bannockburn settlement area was cut off. Following Robert Jackson's death the station was sold to D.R. Corson in 1922. Six years later Corson sold to John Anderson. John Anderson's son Richard Anderson took over the station in 1958 , with the Trustees Executors and Agency Company of New Zealand administering a share of the property, the company that still administers the station today in shares with Richard Anderson.

Physical Description

Kawarau Station was situated adjacent to one of the richest goldfields in New Zealand, the Bannockburn goldfields, as well as the Molyneux and Kawarau River districts, the Nevis river district and the Carrick goldfield. Stephenson et al's study of the Bannockburn heritage landscape contextualizes the station within the rich local history. Other places in this area listed as Category II historic places include, amongst other historic buildings, structures and workings associated with mining (Young Australian Company waterwheel, mine battery, stone hut, sluicings). The iconic mining landscape of the Bannockburn Department of Conservation reserve is located nearby on Felton Rd, with the settlement of Stewart Town (historic place Category II) alongside. These historic places demonstrate the important industries connected with the history of Central Otago - pastoralism and mining. The station supplied bread, meat and some other groceries to those in the backcountry, while the mining population itself provided a source of labour for the station. Miners were able to fence off and occupy a small area of station land.


This structure consists of three buildings (marked on an undated survey plan as the "men's house", "store" and "house", see Appendix 2) connected together at some point after the 1860s when the first structures were built.

Some time in the nineteenth century these were joined together to form the homestead, with the original men's house in schist facing north at the end of the long original homestead (with a veranda) and store sections that face onto the lawn, forming overall a T-shaped structure.

The section of the house that formerly constituted the men's house performed an essential function in the early days of large farm runs, housing the sometimes large numbers of men who worked on the stations. Single men's house were often combined with a cookshop (or kitchen) as was formerly the case here. According to Thornton, "It was the custom for station staff to have their own quarters, sometimes located at a considerable distance from the homestead or 'big house.'" These buildings, along with shearers' quarters, were usually located in separate blocks; sometimes there were separate cottages for the cook and married staff. In some cases conditions in the men's house could be rather rough and uncomfortable. Thornton points out that these often basic structures could at times house up to 100 men, who ate at plank tables running lengthwise, seated on forms. Basic rations were usually monotonous, consisting of mutton, potatoes, bread and tea.

Originally the men's house had an earth floor, subsequently laid in wood and more recently again partly laid in concrete. It is also evident in the original store and joining section that the upper walls and roof have been raised at some point (possibly when a wooden floor was added). The men's house area now has the kitchen in one of the two rooms, with a large living room in the other.

The store section has a long hall area at the rear, with rooms opening off this. The flax insulation is still in place in the ceiling in part of the building.

A notable feature in the garden is the remarkable tree that is growing at the west gable end of the old men's house, completely covering this end wall.


Thornton states that woolsheds, complete with drafting yards, were built to cope with the very large number of sheep that required shearing on the large stations. It was both a shearing shed and a structure for storing wool. The design followed that common in Australia, with three basic areas; pens for holding sheep, the shearing board, where shearers cut the wool with hand blades, and the wool room where fleeces were sorted, classed and pressed into bales, then stored until they were carted to the nearest port. Sheep pen floors were built of slatted timber, about a metre from the ground to allow sheep droppings to fall through and the area to be cleaned out from time to time.

The Kawarau Station woolshed is made up of two single-gabled buildings with shallow pitched roofs. The earlier higher portion of the building, constructed of local schist, is about 38 metres long with twenty stands for blade shearers.

In around 1890 the stone, roofed yards were added to the lower end of the woolshed. This addition is approximately 32 metres long and the roofline is slightly lower than the first section of the woolshed. It is thought that the stone and corrugated iron for the addition came from the old Hawksburn woolshed (The Hawksburn Station was taken over by the New Zealand and Australian Land Company in 1890).

More recently covered lean-to holding pens have been added to the north side of the building. The window in the gable end is a six-light double-hung sash, while those above the old shearing ports are elongated with five three-light fixed panes. The very thin long wooden lintel which not only spans the window openings but also extends into the solid masonry between them is considered unusual by Geoffrey Thornton.

Notable Features

Homestead and woolshed

Construction Dates

Original Construction
1855 - 1860

The lower portion of the woolshed was added.

2000 -
The men's house portion of the homestead was modified. The kitchen was moved into one of the two rooms in this area of the homestead. The floors in part of the house have also been modified and laid in concrete.

Construction Details


Original portion and store/connecting section is plastered stone; the exterior of the men's house portion is unplastered schist. The whole structure has a corrugated iron roof. Interior walls are rammed earth with stones at the base.


Local schist laid as random rubble brought to course, unpainted corrugated iron roof

Information Sources

Beattie, 1979

JH Beattie, The Southern Runs, Gore Historical Society, Invercargill, 1979

Hocken Library

Hocken Library, University of Otago, Dunedin

Archives relating to the history of Kawarau Station - MS 89-078.

New Zealand Archaeological Association (NZAA)

New Zealand Archaeological Association

Athol Anderson, 'Excavations at the Hawksburn Moa-Hunting Site: Interim Report', New Zealand Archaeological Association Newsletter 22 (2):48-59, 1979

Parcell, 1951

James C. Parcell, 'Heart of the Desert: A History of the Cromwell and Bannockburn Districts of Central Otago', Christchurch, 1951

Stephenson, 2004

Janet Stephenson, Heather Bauchop and Peter Petchey, 'Bannockburn Heritage Landscape Study', Department of Conservation, Science and Research Unit, Wellington 2004

Thornton, 1986

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

Other Information

A fully referenced version of this 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.