The History of the Property
Minaret Station is rich in pioneering high country farm life here in New Zealand.
Image Credit: Dave Osmers, 1962.
The Crown initially purchased the (South Island’s) high country from the Maori tribe Ngai Tahu, in the 1840’s and 1850’s, during the time of early European settlement.
By the time of purchase, extensive clearing had already occurred due to earlier fires, however with the exceptions of high altitude tussock areas, the vast majority of the land remained impenetrable and unsuitable for even minimal pastoralism.
The first recorded occupation of Minaret was on February 26, 1860 when William Gabriel Filleul of Waitaki made application for licenses to graze stock upon the wastelands of the Crown (Sovereign owned land). The first map of Minaret Station is dated June 15, 1875 and was signed by the surveyor Mackay.
There were nine owners through the 40 years from 1860 when records were kept in the Dunedin Land Office. Most appear to have stayed on the property for short periods of time before forfeiting or surrendering the lease as unviable.
The property’s isolated location, rugged landscape and unforgiving climatic conditions made it less than hospitable before the industrial age normalised motorised transport and other agricultural enablers.
Tim Wallis in his Hiller 12E Helicopter recovering deer in the early 1960s.
A Family Vision of High Country Hospitality
Sir Tim Wallis had an affinity with Minaret Station since the early 1960’s when he first began working on and around the property carrying out helicopter venison recovery operations. At that time, the property was owned by the Presland family, who contracted Tim’s deer recovery operation, Luggate Game Packers, to work controlling the deer population.
“In the 1960’s when I first knew the property, thousands of deer were running … between West Wanaka, Minaret, the Albert Burn and Crown Land in the watersheds of the Albert Burn.”
Tim’s vision of the potential was established early.
“For 30 years Tim had envisaged such an opportunity. In a letter to his mother in Christchurch in 1965, when he was setting up Luggate Game Packers, he wrote: I am looking at starting a Game Reserve at Wanaka for the Tourist Hotel to show its visitors. All I want of course is some natural country…”
– ‘Hurricane Tim’ by Neville Peat.
An opportunity arose in 1995, and The Alpine Group (Wallis Family business) purchased the Station.
Tim’s dream was to become reality, at last.
The Alpine Lodge
At 3,000 ft (830m) elevation, and located in the upper reaches of the Estuary Burn Valley, Minaret Station Alpine Lodge is truly one of the most unique lodging experiences in the world.
The Alpine Lodge was opened by the Wallis family to guests in 2010.
Every single item used to construct the Lodge was transported to the Station initially by barge across Lake Wanaka, and then lifted by Helicopter onsite in the Estuary Burn Valley.
With sustainable principles in mind, the design of the Lodge buildings draws elements from the traditional high country station homestead and shepherd’s huts. Care has been taken in the selection of materials to ensure they are reflective of the style.
The use of timber and alpine colour palates compliment the landscape, and aim to touch the land as lightly as possible.
The Natural Environment
The property shares a boundary with the World Heritage listed Mt Aspiring National Park. Mt Aspiring itself (or Tititea in Māori , which translates as Glistening Peak), rises to an elevation of 3,033m (9,950 ft), and is the highest peak in the National Park.
The property also borders Mount Albert Station to the North, and West Wanaka Station to the South.
The environment around the Alpine Lodge remains pristine, rich in native flora and fauna, home to a diverse range of species residing around the lodge, and at higher sub alpine elevations.
With 25 kms of lakefront, two large rivers and high alpine ridgelines, there is no road connecting Minaret Station, and access is achieved by air or by boat on the pastoral side. A barge is used as the primary link, and made its’ first crossing over Lake Wanaka to the station in 1995.
The barge completes around 400 hours per year working between Camp Creek (SH6) and various barge loading sites situated along the property, transporting farm machinery, stock, supplies and building materials on and off the Station. Measuring 50m by 10m it is capable of carrying six fully laden truck and trailer units plus miscellaneous equipment.
The Alpine Lodge has it’s own custom built Hydro Electricity generator that supplies all electricity to the lodge from a nearby waterfall.
All water to the Alpine Lodge originates from the station’s healthy annual rainfall and snowmelt.
The drinking water available in your Chalet is drawn directly from the snow and rain-fed Waterfall behind the Alpine Lodge, and is 100% pristine, New Zealand water.
The Farm Today
Minaret Station remains an incredibly unique property, rich in natural diversity and an ideal environment to raise cattle, sheep and deer for domestic and export markets. Modern technology, greater access and the intelligent breeding of region specific species have allowed for effective development of the property since it’s purchase but he Wallis family in 1995. This clip filmed in November 2015 by NZ Story captures Minaret’s approach to raising world class venison.