Old tavern site to become farm paddock

END OF AN ERA: The 109-year-old Okaramio Tavern, in Kaituna Valley near Havelock, will be demolished this weekend.
END OF AN ERA: The 109-year-old Okaramio Tavern, in Kaituna Valley near Havelock, will be demolished this weekend.

A strippers' pole, some ratty old carpet and a few empty bourbon bottles are all that remains inside the 109-year-old Okaramio Tavern, which is set to be demolished this weekend.

The tavern, located in Kaituna Valley near Havelock, was sold to Okaramio farmer Jason Barnett two months ago through a mortgagee sale. The previous owners were Lorelle and Colin Mackel, who had owned the tavern since 2008.

Barnett said the building would be torn down over the weekend and would become another paddock.

"Our land goes right around it, so I put an offer in. It's rotting and has borer through it . . . she was pretty much a mess.

"It's a shame it's coming down."

Barnett had received a few phone calls from people wanted to salvage what was left, he said.

"People have come an taken some stuff [including] one of the two stripper poles, carpet, basins, windows and doors."

Brayshaw Park had also been in touch with him about the rolled iron facade at the front of the tavern, Barnett said.

The tavern had a lot of history, he said.

New Zealand author Don Donovan captured some of that history in his book The Good Old Kiwi Pub published in 1995.

Okaramio Tavern was once a hotel - the Half-Way House - founded by John Dickson in 1872.

By the time John Johnston bought it in 1897, the hotel was a well-established two-storey building with 13 rooms, which could accommodate 20 people.

The hotel, which had 40 acres of surrounding land, became a drop-off point for Harry Newman's four-horse Blenheim to Nelson mail coach and was a place where drovers' stock could be held overnight.

Just four years later in 1902, Irish woman Teresa Briggs of Wellington bought the hotel. One year later, it burnt to the ground.

To keep the business going, Briggs sold liquor from The Tin Hut at Tauherenikau, near Martinborough, until the present pub was built in 1905.

The place thrived when publican Joseph Wooster took over during World War I (1914-1918).

He sold it to engineer John Watson in 1920. He ran the pub until his death in 1931, when his wife Margaret continued to run the business for another 15 years, with the help of an old Scottish sailor.\

It became the Okaramio Tavern in the mid-70s when demand for accommodation declined. It operated as a pub until six months ago.

Hospitality New Zealand chief executive Bruce Robertson said there was no doubt the number of country pubs were declining.

"I think it's fair to say that some country pubs are struggling and there are a number of factors that have done this - changes in how people want to socialise . . . [and] drink-driving issues have impacted country pubs, too.

"However, we are seeing more country pubs now becoming a destination."

Country pub owners were making them places the communities were proud of. They were also focused on getting the "right mix of look, appeal and refurbishment".

"A thriving country pub a few years ago definitely looks different to a country pub now."

The Marlborough Express