Otautau Linen Flax Mill

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A public Arboretum and Park located 2km south of the town of Otautau, western Southland, New Zealand.


Description Please feel free to walk through the arboretum and make use of the picnic area. While overnight camping is permitted free of charge, donations will be gladly accepted.


Currently the arboretum is managed by the Alex McKenzie Memorial Arboretum Charitable Trust but the history and ownership of this property is varied and interesting. The land was originally owned by Alex McKenzie, until it was compulsorily acquired by the government to serve as a linen flax processing plant during World War II. After the war the property was passed to the New Zealand Forest Service, which had been formed in 1919 in response to growing concern about the country’s future timber needs. In search of alternative sources of timber the Forest Service had begun to experiment with planting a range of exotic tree species. An arboretum, which is a botanic garden primarily devoted to trees and other woody plants for scientific research purposes, was established at this site. The site was used as the centre of the Forest Service’s operations for the Western District from the 1950’s until 1987 when the Forest Service was disestablished.


Ownership of the property passed to the state-owned company Timberlands Ltd which sold it Rayonier New Zealand Ltd in 1990. Recently the land was purchased by the Southland District Council with the intention of securing this asset for current and future generations.

Much of the original tree collection can be seen today, some of the earliest surviving specimens dating from 1952. Small single species blocks of trees were also established, for the purpose of supplying a seed source for production planting in the region. The collection contains a variety of pine trees from around the world as well as European hardwoods and some trees from Australia and South America. There is a small garden of native trees and shrubs. Recent work has gone in to clearing the crack willow from the stream with the aim of creating a wetland. The Trust plans to further develop the arboretum by adding to the collection of trees and improving access and other facilities.

A range of native birds visit the arboretum, including the paradise shelduck (putakitaki) bellbird (korimako), grey warbler (riroriro), wood pigeon (kereru), white faced herons (matuka-moana) and the black variant of the South Island fantail (pīwakawaka). The New Zealand falcon (karearea) has also been observed in the arboretum. The Glenburn Stream which runs through the arboretum from the Longwood Range to the Aparima River is home to Galaxid species (such as inaka), freshwater crayfish (koura) and brown trout.

The Otautau community places considerable value on the arboretum; please do not litter and in consideration of other visitors please keep dogs under control. Lighting fires is not permitted.

If you would like more information or would like to become involved with the arboretum please write to the Alex McKenzie Memorial Arboretum Charitable Trust secretary Jesse Bythell. Contact address: Otautau Office of the Southland District Council, 174 Main Street, Otautau.

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Photo details

  • Uploaded on March 29, 2013
  • Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works
    by Bruce Comfort
    • Camera: FUJIFILM FinePix Z90
    • Taken on 2013/03/27 10:28:38
    • Exposure: 0.010s (1/100)
    • Focal Length: 5.00mm
    • F/Stop: f/3.900
    • ISO Speed: ISO200
    • Exposure Bias: 0.00 EV
    • No flash

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