Tuesday 12 April 2016

Quailburn Station- Upper Waitaki, North Otago


After our disappointment walking to the Wairepo Kettleholes and finding them dry, we carried on up the valley to the end of the road, and into the Ahuriri Conservation Park. Which was once Quailburn Station, which in turn, was once part of a vast property known as Benmore Run, one of the largest properties in Otago during the 1870s.

All that remains of the Quailburn Station are the old woolshed, sheep dip, some holding yards and the abandoned homestead.

The woolshed had taking a beating from severe winds in October (we were there in December) and the side holding shed's roof has collapsed.

Built around 1920, the woolshed was still in use in the mid 1990s. There's a photo shown on one of the information boards of the NZ Champion Blade Shearer shearing in Quailburn in 1996. Perhaps it was a special occasion as the woolshed certainly looked like it had been abandoned alot longer than 20 years ago.

The interpretation boards certainly talked of a tough life on Benmore Station, a run that had was over 200,000 acres and held more than 80,000 sheep and then later on the smaller Quailburn Station. Quailburn was named after the native quail that lived here but in fact they were extinct by the time Quailburn started, sheep competed for their feed and they also were a meal for the locals.

If only walls could talk....the interior of the woolshed is fast deteriorating but you can still see the lanolin stained gates and rails and the odd clump of daggy wool in the corners. An old horse buggy seat sits on the floor covered in nest material and bird poop.

You might have noticed the large old beech tree behind the woolshed in one of the photos above. The tree has certainly seen better days but wrapped around the branches at the top of the trunk was beautiful flowering NZ mistletoe. You'll remember we saw quite a number of these rare plants growing in the beech forests alongside Lake Ohau.

Nearby was the old sheep dip; a round concrete pool that would have been full of water and dip (containing pesticides), the sheep were 'helped' down the ramp into the pool, a few at a time, dunked with a shepherds pole and swirled around, or made to swim around, and then clamber out again, all done and dipped for another few months. Oh the indignity.

Up  behind the woolshed we found a large flat platform that looked like a building had once stood here with it's grand view out over the valley below. 

There were a few bits and pieces (pipe, concrete block) lying around and an overgrown garden lily of some sort(not native) that suggested this, but I couldn't find any information confirming a building once stood there.  Perhaps it was the Benmore Station homestead, the site certainly suggesting that this would have been an ideal spot for a grand homestead.

It was in total contrast to the little house we found in the trees over to the side; the old and abandoned Quailburn 'homestead'. 

At first we thought it must be one of the farm huts, but on further investigation I can confirm it was the old Quailburn homestead.

The front door had been padlocked at some stage but somebody had kicked in the front door panel and we were able to step through into the abandoned & slightly spooky interior. The wood and tiled mantle pieces above the coal range & fireplace were still intact, scrim and wallpaper hung off the walls and water stains covered the ceilings. Old lino still covered the small kitchen floor and a food safe was accessible via it's door in the wall. 

Branches piled up beside the fire place and ashes in the grate indicated that hunters or trampers have been using the house as a shelter. It's a miracle it's still standing and hasn't accidentally (or on purpose)  been burnt to the ground. The food safe can be seen hanging off the back of the house here.

There are a number of tramping tracks that leave from the top of the valley; the wind that caused some of the woolshed to collapse must have brought down many of the beech trees in the forest, these were just at the beginning of the track.

It was time to head back down the valley, with just enough time to stop and capture two of my favourite subjects....

...those ever present lupins and an old house!

Which had a 'Private Property' sign to stop me in my tracks. Quailburn Road is on the Alps2Ocean Cycle trail and I'm thinking there have been a few too many people stopping to take a look. Oh well, from the gate is fine with me.

Then it's home down the long and winding road.


  1. As usual, impressive stuff........amazing you can just walk in and view those buildings!

    1. Thanks Jimu, I guess because they come under the DOC umbrella, they're available to the public. A bit like the huts everywhere. It's a pity they can't afford some upkeep though, because before too long these will be ruins and slowly return to the soil.

    2. Hi, I mustered there in 1966! There used to be a cook-shop and a musterers hut very close to the creek.The Hardy's only lived there when there was work on. Shearing mustering. We were there for two months June and July, all sheep were bought down from the high country for eye clipping, rams out with the ewes etc.Bernie

    3. Hi Bernie, thanks so much for the extra information, very interesting. I love filling in gaps and meeting people that have been to or used to live in some of our remotest places. I take my hat off to you surviving those harsh MacKenzie Country winters though, brrrr!!


Thank you for taking the time to leave a message, I love reading them! All comments are personally moderated by me and I will post and answer them as soon as possible, Shellie