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Totara Estate


Alma Maheno Rd, SH1, Oamaru


03 434 7169

Opening Hours:

  • Weekdays: 10am–4pm
  • Weekends: 10am–4pm
  • Closed on Public Holidays

Totara Estate situated south of Oamaru is an historic farm that is highly significant as the birthplace of New Zealand's billion dollar frozen meat industry.

Totara Estate was established during the 1850s and was known for its sheep, cattle and grain. It was purchased by the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, a Glasgow-based company in 1866.

Because of the downturn in wool prices during the 1870s, New Zealand pastoralists were extremely interested in the results of the first frozen meat shipment from Australia to Britain in 1880. Once this proved successful, W.S. Davidson, the general manager for the New Zealand and Australian Land Company, began to organise a similar venture from New Zealand.

He had a slaughterhouse built at Totara and sent the first shipment of meat from the estate to Port Chalmers in 1882. The meat was frozen onboard the ship 'Dunedin', which had a steam-powered Bell-Coleman refrigeration system installed, and the meat arrived successfully in Britain. By the end of the 1890s the export of frozen meat had become (and remains) of considerable importance economically, politically and socially, to New Zealand.

In 1980 the Totara Estate farm buildings were purchased by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, with the assistance of a number of grants including one from the New Zealand Meat Board. Heritage New Zealand restored the buildings during 1981-1982, creating displays (housed primarily in the former cookhouse) which illustrate the early history of Totara and the development of the frozen meat industry.

10am - 4pm daily, September-May
Closed except by prior arrangement, June-August.
Closed Christmas Day and Good Friday

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