The main lounge room at Orangapai Tb Sanitorium

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Bruce Comfort on August 1, 2011

Orangapai Tuberculosis Sanitorium was built in the hills above Waipiata in the Maniototo, where a Tuberculosis treatment centre comprising a few small wooden buildings and tents for the patients was first established in 1917, to help troops with Tb returning from WWI.

It is at an altitude of about 530 MASL in the western fringes of a large area of volcanic geology dominated landscape, and the land around is characterised by fields of boulders and bassalt outcrops. The location is spectacular.

In the days before chemotherapeutic chemicals (antibiotics) fresh cold dry air was the "cure" of choice - and in many cases it worked! It was common practice, world-wide, to locate Tb Sanitoria in higher altitude places where it often snowed and the air was low humidity.

Orangapai was opened in 1924, by the then Minister of Health Sir Maui Pomare, one of New Zealand's most distinguished Maori medical practitioners.

Designed by E R Wilson, an Invercargill architect who designed extant seminal Invercargill buildings like the Railway Station, Kew Hospital and The Opera House, Orangapai was a substantial sophisticated grouping of large building with a mechanised laundry, central heating and roads and street lighting (later upgraded)

It is of white mortar-pointed brick veneer and double brick construction and all the buildings have slate roofs. Most of the treatment wing windows are steel framed and above about 2 metres they were unglazed during the treatment years. Similarly the individual bedrooms for the patients had no glazing and it is recorded that in winter, snow often settled on the patients' bed clothing!

In many respects it has classical Arts and Crafts architectural overtones, however it is an unashamed institutional building.

The Nurses' Home and the Medical Superintendent's house are more domestic in appearance and are physically separated from the treatment and residential buildings.

At the end of the sanitorium era the buildings became a Justice Department Borstal (male youth residential home and prison) and after that it, and surrounding land of about 100Ha, was purchased and is now owned privately. The complex runs as a Christian Community and Retreat called En Hakkore whose directors are well aware of the historic significance of the site and buildings and who, although modifying the internal fitments are preserving the fabric faithfully and responsibly.

As far as I am aware the complex has no NZHPT status. It is recorded in the Central Otago District Plan as an historic location.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on August 1, 2011
  • Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works
    by Bruce Comfort
    • Camera: SAMSUNG ES65, ES67 / VLUU ES65, ES67 / SAMSUNG SL50
    • Taken on 2011/06/21 15:31:06
    • Exposure: 0.003s (1/350)
    • Focal Length: 5.70mm
    • F/Stop: f/9.400
    • ISO Speed: ISO100
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash