Kōuka Cottage and a House and Garden Tour


A little beyond Kōuka Cottage and at the forecourt of Tui Garage, you might have pulled-in to fill your motor on your southward journey from Greytown. Photographs show four fuel bowsers of the kind that were oddly human in form – a large round head bearing the petroleum logo and the fuel line and trigger serving as an arm akimbo. The garage is long gone, supplanted with the grand White Swan Hotel that made an epic journey, in several parts, over the Remutakas.


The garage has gone but not the garage owner’s home for the first three years of married life; Kōuka Cottage still stands at 113 Main Street. Tui Morgan, unsurprisingly proprietor of Tui’s Garage, was a speedway champion; a photograph has him supporting his Harley Davidson, the brand emblazoned across his chest – a small reminder that insignia on clothing isn’t new.


Passing-by, within a few years, you might have strained to identify the muffled, crackling, vaguely off-station sound of early radio broadcasts. This was also the home of the first wireless in Greytown. Lives lived so centrally on Main Street.


Kōuka Cottage, built somewhere around 1860, was named for the stands of tī kōuka (cabbage trees) that stood at its frontage. The cottage was possibly built for the gardener associated with the neighbouring, now gone, Kempton / Dunn residence. Modest to the point of reticent, the cottage gives a pause in style and scale on Main Street. It is a building that is so much more than its humble structure.


For many years, the cottage was rented from the Council. In 1997 its ownership passed to the Greytown Heritage Trust for the princely sum of $1.00. And some conditions. As a heritage property of significance in the townscape, there was much love and structural care needed. A small forward addition was removed to retrieve the integrity of the almost classic miner’s cottage appearance – a full width porch was reinstated. The building has been repiled, the roof fettled, the chimney strengthened.


The side profiles of the building are almost original in their detail but what isn’t, and what the Greytown Heritage Trust wants and needs to attend to, is the back extension which is in a poor physical state and is a later addition of unknown history. As accommodation it services the building badly. Plans are in place for a sensitive rebuilding of that small part of Kōuka Cottage.


So, to the fund-raising. The Greytown Heritage Trust has put together a self-guided tour on February 4 2024, unveiling eleven remarkable properties, many open to the public for the first time. A quality keepsake folding map & information poster is part of the entry and tickets are available on eventfinda under Greytown Heritage House and Garden Tour. It’s a pleasurably original Christmas present for family or friends. A present that will make a difference to our heritage.


Read more about the House and Garden Tour

Visual of Greytown town planning

Greytown Heritage Trust considers the
South Wairarapa District Plan


Greytown is unique. An accident of history ensured that many of our earliest buildings survived intact. We live in the shade of emblematic trees amidst New Zealand’s first planned town; although we might rue the loss of indigenous foliage. A town in a setting that enjoys the theatre of the Tararuas and the eastern hills, and the incisions of significant rivers. Our responsibility for conservation is profound. Strategic planning is critical – shaping the day-to-day of those that live here, the pleasures for the footfall of visitors, and safeguards a legacy; sensitive and intelligible. Our social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being is ensured through a comprehensive and effective long-term strategy.


The South Wairarapa District Council have tabled the third phase of the Proposed Wairarapa Combined District Plan 2023, inviting feedback; a summarised version of the plan can be found here. Critically, for the the Greytown Heritage Trust, is the proposal that the commercial town centre develops northwards.  Discussion and evidence in planning literature suggests that ribbon development is often economically and environmentally incompetent – making commercial viability sometimes harder, chewing up the character of neighbourhoods.   Increasingly, contemporary town planning looks to intensify the existing footprint, rather than reaching out to cannibalise new margins of residential or open land.


The proposal undermines propositions to cluster the town centrally – to give it a heart of activity that is easily accessed on foot; to foster a convivial, busy ambience. Extending the “high street” strip puts residential sites on the fringes at risk of being transfigured and heritage character being stripped away. A vision of the town’s cohesion was modestly, but inspirationally, begun with Max Edridge’s placement of the Town Hall at the core, with the buildings adjacent set back to form a sense of a town square; a plan not yet fully realised.  Latterly there have been developed proposals in the proposition For the Love of Greytown shaped by Adam and Millie Blackwell, Gina Jones, (GHT), Nick Rogers, Charles Kaka (Pāpāwai) and Councillor Martin Boseley.  The core drive is to intensify the town, to knit the expansion and human activity closer.

The Trust believes that extending Greytown’s town centre in the SWDC proposal disregards the Strategic Direction – UFD-05 Vibrant Town Centres.


The compactness of Greytown works; palpably evident when we celebrate events. Having access to West Street (as Truck Stop can) provides enhanced safety and operational opportunity. The compact Greytown centre already shapes a vibrant hub. Consolidating this further would be enrichment.


We’d encourage you to dialogue with us; let us know your thinking and responses.  We encourage you to engage directly with SWDC through submissions. Contact us with your thoughts at  greytownheritagetrust@gmail.com



Discover a world of flourishing history and timeless beauty on the inaugural Greytown Heritage House & Garden Tour. A self-guided tour, unveiling eleven remarkable properties as a fundraiser for the restoration of Greytown's historic Kōuka Cottage. Read more here.

The Greytown Heritage Trust
Annual Address - Oct 2023

Returning to live in his boyhood home of Greytown, Sir Kim Workman has embraced an extraordinary career encompassing many aspects of criminal justice, exercising a distinguished public service including time with the Office of the Ombudsman, State Services Commission, Department of Maori Affairs, and Ministry of Health.  Pertinently for us, he undertook a review of the then Historic Places Trust.


Sponsored by a generous and thoughtful Greytown Landmark Trust grant, Sir Kim gave the Heritage Trust Annual Address in October. A Koha was made to Papawai Marae on Tā Kim’s behalf.

Sir Kim Workman:  Dreaming, plotting and planning – a Greytown boyhood


The past is another country: they do things differently there.  Or so L.P. Hartley wrote in his novel The Go Between.  In te ao Māori there’s a challenge; the shared whakataukī is kia whakatōmuri te haere whakamua: ‘I walk backwards into the future with my eyes fixed on my past’.  Here, the past, present and future coalesce and become intertwined, and life is experienced as a real and reflective relationship between all humanity and all history.


In the Greytown Heritage Trust Annual Address 2023, it is te ao Maori and the notion of heritage that Tā Kim Workman will explore and consider.


At one level the past, present and future are explicitly part of Tā Kim Workman’s relationship with this town.  He returned to live here last year having left at 17 years old.  Born in 1940, we’ll leave you to count on your fingers, the years away.


Coming back has given him a tangible appreciation of the places that are todays' heritage sites.  These were the places that formed part of the village in the 1940s , and hold memories of people who were part of his early life.  Alongside this, Tā Kim’s awareness of histories has heightened and he observes that we all have a different perspective about why particular sites are significant; and that when we share those perspectives, their full meaning is revealed.


Perhaps in this we begin to give histories and landscape and buildings and monuments their deserved mana? In the official list that identifies our most significant historic heritage places by Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, there’s a hefty slew in favour of Pākehā heritage. Less than 10 percent of the list identifies Māori heritage, and around 80 percent of the list embraces buildings.


Tā Kim talks of the intertwined relationship of place and whanau of his childhood.  Friday nights over a beer or two, his grandparents and six of father’s siblings, eating home-roasted peanuts and reshaping the politics of the nation.  Meanwhile, he could roam the town freely, seemingly known by everyone; dropping in on uncles, aunties, cousins; the rituals of an unfettered childhood.


Greytown was a village more rural, more bucolic than it perhaps is now.  At the rear of his family home was a large barn-like building that Tā Kim’s father had built. The red-stained timber had come from the Aotea meeting house at Pāpāwai Pā, after it blew down in a 1934 gale. Aotea had been built in the 1890s to house the Māori parliament and the Kotahitanga movement. Tā Kim knew little of that then, but escaped to the pleasure of its attic, important, safe, encased within the walls – this, he says, was where his dreaming, plotting and planning took place.  It was, also, where heritage incidentally knitted history into a personal present.

The Woolworths NZ / Fresh Choice Hearings: Monday 2 and Tuesday October 2023


Greytown Heritage Trust contributed to the Hearing for the Woolworth New Zealand / Fresh Choice Planning Application.  The event was well attended with the Commissioner, Lindsay Daysh, commenting on the numbers and, in his summary remarks, thanking people for the quality of their thinking and response.  He had also noted the passion. The Heritage Trust Chairperson, Carmel Ferguson, gave a full contextual coverage of our position and concerns, while Gina Jones reported in detail about the challenges in the application including critical heritage issues, safety concerns, access and the health of the trees on site.  Notes about the arboreal status of the trees were shared on behalf of the arboreo-cultural expert, Ritchie Hill.


Speakers included residents, community representatives and officers from Waka Kotahi and the South Wairarapa District Council.  There was a strong consensus between individuals and agencies in their resistance to the plans.


In closing and in a brief verbal response, Woolworths NZ representatives asked for leave to consider the issues raised over the two days and to address those directly in writing.  The Commissioner agreed to a deadline of 20th October and his decision will subsequently follow, when he has had time to assimilate and arbitrate on the submissions.

Will Holmes

Born 3 May 1937 —Died 10 August 2023


Dragging a decrepit steam-driven car out of the tangle of grass in a paddock, Will Holmes set to on an early project for himself which was a fastidious rebuild of the vehicle in his admirably outfitted and tooled garage. Its final notable blue livery, fully functional and accurate in its detail was a testimony to the patience and persistence that coloured Will’s life. It prefigured a yen for vintage cars, mainly the Austin marque.


Will Holmes was born in the Bay of Islands, but there was a transient childhood in early years as his father chased railway jobs around the North Island, including time in Taihape. The family hauled up finally in Cross Creek, below the rugged Wairarapa slopes of the Remutaka Hill. A junction for the steam trains that in those days laboured the inclines on what has now become the cyclists’ and walkers’ joy of the Remutaka Rail Trail. Indeed, Will’s father was to take the last ever locomotive over the hill and back to Wellington.


Rising early to clear possum traps, Will made an early living at just 12 years old selling furs to fund his ambition to be a carpenter; hand tools and a shed in the garden were the products of a motivated lad. Following the rounds of traps, he journeyed an hour each way to Wairarapa College. Landing a Ministry of Works’ apprenticeship, he triumphantly left school for his new working life only to be turned back because the conditions of the contract were that he complete two years at secondary school. He had just eighteen months under his belt and returned, ruefully, to the classroom.


Will Holmes was a significant builder in the Greytown area. The beginnings were in a modest partnership with Graeme Rigg to form HR Builders in 1957, the company later morphed several times to become Will Holmes Ltd, Holmes Construction Group and latterly amalgamated two companies, formed previously under the Holmes brand, to become Holmes Construction New Zealand. It has been a business that has stayed in the family. Ben, Will’s nephew, is current CEO and Will’s sons previously had the reins following their father’s retirement.


Will Holmes was a very significant contributor to Greytown. Four life memberships of community organisations are testimony to this. He died a life member and Patron of the Rugby Club. A life member of the South Wairarapa Workingmen’s Club (with a double entitlement to such an affiliation by both length of membership and honorary award). He was an ally and life member of Cobblestones Museum, served with the Greytown Heritage Trust and maintained a lifetime membership with the Vintage Car Club.


Will died just three weeks after his beloved wife of forty years, Ruby. His first wife, Linnie, mother to his children, continues to live in Masterton. Reflecting on his father’s life, Will’s son described a man having an incredible way about him; a man who tangibly loved his family and community; a man who was a great conversationalist and an absolute gentleman. He was, says Andy his son, just a good bastard. Hear the utter affection and deep regard in those words.


Calendar Dates


The days are beginning to stretch and the landscape’s early risers are breaking bud, give or take the odd rogue plants that seem to have bungled their memory of seasons and flowered promiscuously in late autumn, rather than at the burst of spring.  The Greytown Heritage Trust is also unfolding from the winter and signalling a number of projects and activities for the near future.


The Fresh Choice planning application (22081)

You’ll possibly be aware that the Greytown Heritage Trust undertook consultation, reflection and work to prepare a submission to the South Wairarapa District Council on the proposals from Woolworths NZ for the Greytown Fresh Choice supermarket.


The Hearings will be held on

Monday 2 October- WBS Room, 89 Main Street, Greytown

Tuesday 3 October - Kiwi Hall, 62-64 Bell Street, Featherson


People who have made a submission (including Greytown Heritage Trust) and who are intending to call expert evidence, will need to provide that evidence to the SWDC by 5pm on Friday 22 September 2023.


Heritage House and Garden Tour: 
Fundraising for Kouka Cottage


Celebrating remarkable houses and gardens of this town, the Heritage Trust is hosting tours of selected properties on February 4th 2024, Waitangi Weekend. A popular holiday weekend, the Sunday following Saturday’s Martinborough Fair, there will be activity for locals and visitors alike. This event, a self-guided tour, is a fundraiser to upgrade and address maintenance issues parts of Kouka Cottage at 113 Main Street.


Kouka Cottage was built around 1860 and purchased in 1997 in a derelict state for a whole $1.00.  Modest to the point of being unassuming, it’s nonetheless a notable punctuation mark in an architecturally rich Main Street.  The wee cottage harbours a wonderfully chequered history that includes, within the 20th century, being home to Speedway motorcycle legend, Tui Morgan, and claims that another tenant is thought to have had the first wireless radio in Greytown.  The renovation, important and sensitive, will be a notable further accomplishment in fostering the architectural heritage of Greytown.

Trust Membership


Greytown’s heritage, notably its Victorian buildings and significant trees, is what the Greytown Heritage Trust values and champions.  Our heritage attracts people to visit, play, stay and live here.  If you are interested in our heritage and would like to support the Trust’s work in advocacy, promotion and protection, please support us.


Membership rates are $20.00 for a single person, $30.00 for a couple and $30.00 for individual businesses.  You can pay on-line through Internet Banking:  Greytown Heritage Trust, Account 03 0609 0090667 00. Please include your last name in the reference field;  ‘individual’, ‘couple’, ‘business’ or ‘donation’ in the particulars field; and phone number in the code field.  We will then contact you for your first name(s) and address for your receipt.


A strong base of subscribing members is vital for the Trust, enhancing credibility with submissions.  Please join us as a financial member.  We’re ever grateful to the many people who are already members.


Carmel Ferguson

Chairperson Greytown Heritage Trust

021 925 573


© Greytown Heritage Trust 2023

 P O Box 169 Greytown Wairarapa 5712