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Celebrating Hayes Engineering Works

A ceremony to mark Hayes Engineering Works' inclusion into the Landmarks Whenua Tohunga programme was held on 04 February 2018. Guests at the ceremony included Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan and Pat Wilson, a great-granddaughter of Ernest and Hannah Hayes.

A popular rest stop on the Otago Central Rail Trail, Hayes Engineering Works and Homestead is the legacy of English immigrants Ernest and Hannah Hayes, who settled in Central Otago after their arrival in 1882. Though he worked initially as a millwright at local flour mills, Ernest’s enterprise began when he started inventing tools to simplify work on his 150-acre farm near Oturehua. From rabbit bait cutters to windmills, Hayes’ labour-saving inventions quickly spread around the country and overseas.  Perhaps most well known tool is his refinement of J Reid's fencing wire strainer, perfected in 1924, and is still used around the world today.

View of Hayes Engineering Works buildings. Photo by Claudia Babirat.

In a picturesque Central Otago setting, Hayes Engineering Works forms part of an industrious enclave that developed as demand for its products grew, alongside Ernest and Hannah’s family that expanded to nine children. Today, the rustic mud brick buildings and their authentic contents are remarkably well preserved.

Pat Wilson, a great-granddaughter of Ernest and Hannah Hayes outside her family's homestead. Photo by Claudia Babirat.

Pat Wilson and Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan unveiling a Landmarks Whenua Tohunga pou at the site. Photo by Claudia Babirat.

Pat Wilson and Mayor Tim Cadogan cut a cake yesterday to commemorate Hayes Engineering Works becoming a Landmarks Whenua Tohunga site. Photo by Claudia Babirat.

A ceremony to welcome Hayes Engineering Works to the Landmarks Whenua Tohunga programme doubled as a small family reunion and a birthday celebration. About eight members of the extended Hayes family attended the celebration. It was also the 167th birthday of the inventor Ernest Hayes, celebrated by many of his descendants on site. Ernie's great great great grandchildren cut his cake.

Local Oturehua resident Ken Gillespie is a legend. On operating days at Hayes Engineering Works, he'll make Ernie's inventions come alive for you. So if you're in Central Otago, pop in for a tour and coffee. Photo by Claudia Babirat.

The workshop – with its labyrinth of overhead shafts, belts and pulleys driving various lathes, drills and saws – was previously powered by windmill and then a water Pelton wheel, but now runs on an electric motor. Offering fascinating insight into how things were created back then, the machinery is brought to life with lively commentary on four scheduled Operating Days and many other times throughout the summer.

Viewing some of the machinery on display. Photo by Claudia Babirat.

Self-guided tours allow visitors to wander through the buildings and grounds, with pre-booked guided tours available throughout the season and on Operating Days. Along with a gift store, there is a cafe offering delicious food and refreshments during the summer months (September to May).

Discover more with the Landmarks Whenua Tohunga website.

View more photos from the Hayes Engineering Works celebration on facebook here.


Updated on 21st February 2018