Stoush brewing over 'oldest pub' tag

01:43, Jan 31 2009
TITLE TIPPLE: Upper Moutere Inn bar managers Dave Watson and Chaz Senior toast what they reckon is the country's oldest pub.

A stoush is brewing over the site of New Zealand's oldest pub.

A Wellington hotel, the Thistle Inn, has laid claim to the title.

However, the Upper Moutere Inn, 20km west of Nelson, begs to differ.

WELL-AGED: Tai Tapu Hotel co-owners Tania Smith, left, and Jacqui Ballantyne think their pub is also a contender for the country's oldest.

The Wellington hotel bases its claim on a stairwell, two doors and a wall remaining from the original pub, built in 1840.

Owner Lyn Middleditch said Maori chiefs were believed to have pulled their waka onto theThorndon foreshore and downed ales at the bar.

The pub was closed for six months after an 1866 fire, but the surviving stairs, wall and doors were included in the rebuilt alehouse.


Middleditch said that, more importantly, the licence did not lapse while the new bar was built.

She believed the owners of the Upper Moutere Inn were wrong to advertise their 1850 hotel as the nation's oldest.

However, Upper Moutere Inn co-owner Kieron Lattimer said the Wellington rival was not the original building.

"To be left with a stairwell and wall does not mean the building has survived," he said.

The Upper Moutere Inn was built in 1850 by German settlers and was operating before its first licence was issued in 1853, he said.

Lattimer was confident the Moutere had seen pints pulled for the longest period under an original roof in New Zealand. "Our claim is based on the age of our building and its use as a pub, both of which are from 1850."

Another possible title contender is Christchurch's Tai Tapu Hotel, where drams have been downed since 1856. However, the licence arrived a year later. Owner Jackie Ballantyne said the original pub still had the old cellar, where bodies were held for coronial examinations.

However, Hospitality Association New Zealand life member Bill Brien conferred the national title on the Thistle Inn. "Without a doubt it has been around for a long time and kept its licence," he said.


The Press