"And seasons rise and bloom and fall,
And never fail but to enthral,
And destinies and dreams are spun,
Beneath the shining Central sun"
The Heartland Experience
During the latter half of last century, goldminers
struggled across the wild and unforgiving landscape in their quest to reach
the rich goldfields around Kyeburn, Naseby, St Bathans and many other claims
in the Maniototo.
Flanked to the east by the Rock and Pillar Range, to the west by the
North Rough Range and Raggedy Range and to the north by the Hawkdun, Ida
and Kakanui Mountain Ranges, the Maniototo region enjoys an enviable reputation
for its hot, dry summers, clear blue skies, vibrant autumn colours, the
freshest of upland air and in winter, the clean crisp still days.
Today the whole area is attracting an increasing number of holiday-makers
who enjoy the tranquillity, sunshine and wide variety of sporting and cultural
pursuits this fascinating, historic region has to offer.
Originally to be named Eweburn, Ranfurly is the service centre for the Maniototo area. Named after the fifth Earl of Ranfurly, the 15th Governor General of New Zealand, the name of Ranfurly is perhaps more notable for the Ranfurly Shield, New Zealand's inter-provincial rugby trophy. Streets in the town are named for those in the Earl's home or for various relatives.
When the Central Otago railway line was constructed, it bisected the Maniototo Plain, and Ranfurly became the central point of the line. The County Offices, banks and other services were moved from Naseby to Ranfurly and from the 1930's the town developed rapidly. As this was the era of Art Deco, many of the buildings in the town reflect this architectural style and this theme is being used to create a unique persona for this small town - Rural Art Deco (see below).
The closing of the Central Otago Railway line in 1989 had a detrimental effect on the town and other small, neighbouring communities, but the recent opening of the Otago Central Rail Trail, the vast majority of which traverses the Maniototo district, is bringing new life to the area. Suitable for walking, mountain biking or horse riding, the Trail is the only one in New Zealand and is one of the longest in the Southern Hemisphere.
The refurbishment of the Railway Station into a Display Centre with slide/audiovisuals and photographs, provides a time capsule of the history of the town.
Rural Art Deco
Ranfurly features some of the first buildings designed to meet early standards of earthquake specification following the Napier quake of 1933.
The modernist design style of Art Deco used in Napier was adopted in Ranfurly and used in many of the homes and commercial buildings in the town and surrounding communities.
Arson attacks on a number of civic properties in Ranfurly in the early 30's prompted the town council to redevelop the new amenities in the progressive styles of the time with further commercial development in the early 1940's following this theme. To day Ranfurly is left with a rich heritage of Art Deco design and architecture.
This Art Deco heritage is now being promoted as part of a rejuvenation of this rural community.
The community owned Centennial Milk Bar, a classic piece of modernist design, has been refurbished and now houses a collection of Art Deco memorabilia and collectibles and is open daily Tuesdays to Sundays.
More information about Ranfurly Rural Art Deco and the Rural Art Deco Weekend held in February.
The tiny township of Naseby is located among shady trees at the head of the sun-bleached Maniototo Plain. It is the most charming of Otago's gold rush settlements (often referred to as the ‘Jewel of the Maniototo'), with a wealth of surviving Victorian architecture, and some buildings constructed from adobe (sun dried mud brick).
As many as 5000 diggers once toiled on its gold fields, but this "poorman's field" as it was known made recovering the gold a sometimes thankless task.
Naseby's present day, permanent population is 100, but this swells to upwards of 3000 people during the holiday season, with crib (holiday home) owners and camping ground dwellers enjoying the tranquil delights of this corner of the Maniototo. Coupled with a growing number of farmstays and homestays, the new gold for Naseby is its tourist experience. With tennis courts, bowling green, a swimming dam, golf course, gold panning, mountain biking and forest walks, The Early Settlers Museum and Watchmakers Shop, Naseby affords the visitor many diversions.
Winter is not without its own special experience with the unique winter sport of Curling now able to be played regularly on the Maniototo Ice Rink situated in Naseby. Skating is also provided for, and Ice Hockey tournaments are a feature.
Beneath the Hawkdun Range and the Dunstan Mountains is the tiny township of St Bathans. With a present population of 5 people and one hotel, it is a far cry from the days of 2000 people and 13 hotels.
Situated beside the beautiful Blue Lake (created by the sluicing and channelling of the gold diggers), the intense blue colour of the lake is caused by the mineral content of the surrounding cliffs. The 120 metre high hill the lake site was, is now a 69 metre deep hole, the deepest mining hole in the Southern Hemisphere.
The adobe (sun dried mud brick) buildings, notably the Vulcan Hotel, reflect a theme common throughout Central Otago. With virtually no timber available in the goldfields areas, miners and other settlers used whatever was to hand to build their dwellings.
Another notable building is the Post Office, a double story kauri building which still retains a postal service with its own unique postmark operated by the owner of Despatches where you can buy gifts reminiscent of a bygone era.
In the south west corner of the Maniototo lies the tiny township of Patearoa, again another settlement occurring as the result of goldmining. While not as extensive as Naseby, some good results were obtained in the area.
A legacy of those far off days are the remains of a small Chinese settlement which can be reached by the Sowburn Walkway, a recently opened walking track. With a hotel, school and garage the only remaining evidence of a commercial sector, Patearoa is now host to a number of crib (holiday home) owners.
Situated in the centre of a predominantly farming community, the Maniototo Irrigation Scheme, part of which runs through Patearoa, is also an attraction for visitors to the area. Patearoa is used as a base by many fishermen who return to the area year after year to try their luck with the extraordinary fish which inhabit the Taieri River and its extensive wetlands area.
Further up the valley from Patearoa is the area known as Paerau, home of the extensive Taieri River wetlands. Also known as the ‘Styx', the historic Styx Hotel and Styx Jail lie at the foot of the Dunstan Trail the early route to the Central Otago goldfields. The hotel is now a holiday home, but the Jail can be visited. It was actually a lock-up where the gold bullion was protected during the overnight stop and you can see the chains where the gold chest was padlocked in safety.
The Dunstan Trail is now a popular 4WD and mountain bike route (please check weather conditions before proceeding). Information is available from Department of Conservation offices in Alexandra and Dunedin.
This often forgotten corner of the Maniototo was once a thriving railway camp as the Central Otago Railway line snaked into being across the Maniototo Plain. A further boost for the town was the construction in 1914 of the Waipiata Sanatorium, originally a private facility, some few miles along the Waipiata/Patearoa road near the old Hamiltons gold field. Now a private religious retreat, En Hakkore (Place of Refreshment), the Sanatorium provided a considerable economic boost to the Maniototo for many years. Before entering private hands, the Sanatorium became a Borstal for a short period of time. Waipiata today has a Tavern and a number of private and holiday homes.
A feature of the town has been retained in the iron bridge known locally as the Green Bridge, totally constructed in Dunedin.
Situated on State Highway 85, the settlement of Wedderburn is close to the Central Otago Rail Trail. Originally a coach stop, Wedderburn has a Tavern and the first Golf Course in the World to open in the new Millenium. This nine hole course provides its own unique challenges and the nearby Backpackers Lodge and the Tavern provide accommodation and food for the visitor.
DANSEYS PASS & THE UPPER KYEBURN
The Upper Kyeburn goldfield was in existence even before the main finds at Naseby and the miners were well served by the Danseys Pass Hotel built in 1862, its stonework paid for in beer. The hotel has been redeveloped into a world renowned Coach Inn, but the goldfields are long gone along with the miners who planted a tree representing their homeland in the German Creek Reserve behind the hotel. The hotel is the last stop on the Danseys Pass Road which winds over the mountains to North Otago.
LOWER KYEBURN AND KOKONGA
The Lower Kyeburn area has virtually disappeared but the bridge over the Kyeburn River on State Highway 85 (known as The Pigroot) is a short distance away from the site of Maiseys Hotel which was the stopping point for Cobb & Co's coaches on their journey to Naseby and the interior of Otago. Kokonga was the site of a Taieri River crossing, Ryans Crossing, with miners from the Serpentine workings often using it to make their way to Naseby. Establishment of a railway workers camp provided the impetus for a more permanent settlement, but today just a few people live within the township area.
Originally known as Rough Ridge, Oturehua is now a quiet little township serving the farming community of the Ida Valley. Surrounding it however, is an Historic Trail well worth a visit.
Perhaps the most famous of its sites is Hayes Engineering Works, established in 1895 by Ernest Hayes initially to make tools for his own use. Seeing a demand for farming equipment he went into business and thus were born the world famous Hayes Wire Strainer, and the Hayes Windmill. The windmills were modelled on the original one made to provide power for the works. This windmill is still in working order today.
Another historic building is Gilchrists Store, still trading today, but with an interior little changed from when it was built in 1899.
Just down the road the Golden Progress Mine poppet head is still standing, evidence of the attempts to extract gold from the reefs in the area. With an 182' shaft and 165' shafts going off the drive it was a massive undertaking employing at one time 35 miners working shifts. Because the reefs were difficult to follow and the lead was often lost, the mine was eventually closed.
One well known attraction just outside Oturehua is the Idaburn Dam, site of the Brass Monkey Motorcycle Rally during the first weekend in June each year. When weather conditions permit, the Dam is also host to the Bonspiel, an ancient tournament for all Curling Clubs, which can only be held on natural ice.
more about Oturehua
OPHIR To reach this peaceful holiday town take a short detour off State Highway 85 at Omakau. Park your vehicle and stroll down Ophir's once busy main street. Even where new buildings have replaced old, remains of earlier, more humble dwellings and their outbuildings can be seen in side and rear gardens, surrounded in summer by colourful spires of hollyhock and larkspur.
As most of the buildings are privately owned, viewing is from the street only. A brochure is available outlining the features which include the Post and Telegraph Office, courthouse, bakery, and cottage hospital.
In its heyday, after the discovery of gold in 1863, Ophir was the commercial and social centre for the district, and had a population of about 1000.
MATAKANUI A collection of old buildings dating back to the mining days can be seen at Matakanui (formerly Tinkers) including the old Duggan's store, stables and hotel. Signposted from Omakau.
ation offices in Dunedin and Alexandra).
THINGS TO DO IN THE MANIOTOTO:
Ranfurly Railway Station slide/audiovisuals and photographic record.
Rural Art Deco building and exhibition.
Heated swimming pool, tennis courts, squash courts, bowling green, golf course.
Early Settlers Museum, Watchmakers Shop, Vehicle Museum, Cemetery. Swimming Dam, golf course, tennis courts, bowling green, gold panning, mountain biking, orienteering, picnicking. Fishing in Coal Pit or Hoffmans Dam. In winter, curling, ice skating, ice hockey.
Sowburn Walkway, fishing, picnicking.
Visit the Vulcan Hotel, Old Post Office. Walk around Blue Lake, swim or kayak on the lake, picnicking, horse trekking available.
Historic Trail of Hayes Engineering Works, Gilchrists Store, Golden Progress Mine, Blackstone Hill School and Cemetery. Access to Rail Trail.
Access to Rail Trail. Fishing, Kayaking on Taieri River.
Golf course, access to Rail Trail.
Danseys Pass & Upper Kyeburn: Historic Coach Inn, German Creek Reserve, Cemetery, gold panning.
Visit Styx Jail, fishing, kayaking on Taieri River.
see also the following websites:
Maniototo Information Centre
Otago Goldfields Heritage Trail
Otago Central Rail Trail
(above images are courtesy of Denis Todd, Maniototo Pharmacy, Ranfurly)