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Last bastion of pioneering family’s links to the past goes on the market for sale

Tags: Northland Residential

A character-filled homestead linking a pioneering family with colonial roots dating back some 150 years in New Zealand’s past, has been placed on the market for sale.


The museum-like home linked to the Alison family in the Northland township of Waipu is adjacent to farm land first settled by direct descendants of the founding family in 1866.

With the last two grand-children of pioneering settler Duncan Alison passing away without any children of their own, the four-bedroom home and lifestyle block-sized landholding have been placed on the market for sale.

Scottish settler, Duncan Alison, sailed from the UK to New Zealand in 1865 - berthing in Auckland and soon after resettling to Waipu. Duncan and his wife Catherine had a son, Duncan Roderick Alison who was one of the volunteers who painstakingly built Waipu’s Presbyterian Church.

In turn Duncan Roderick Alison had 10 children by two wives. The last two of those children who were living on the Waipu property until their deaths - Wilma Alice Alison and Peggy Elaine Alison – passed away in 2011 and 2015 respectively. Their riverside home is a few hundred metres from where the pair were born – in the original Alison farm homestead, which is also still standing.

Neither woman had any children – effectively ending the Alison family name’s century-and-a-half association with what was once a substantial dairy farm, much of which was subdivided into residential sections over the decades and now forms the suburban outskirts of Waipu.

Both of the women lived in the Ferry Road property until shortly before their deaths. The beneficiaries of the property sale are Wilma Alice and Peggy Elaine’s various nieces and nephews – some of whom still live in Northland.

Included in the chattels being sold with the home is an assortment of highly-collectable early-1900 period furniture and fittings collected over nearly a century by the recluse spinsters. These include native timber fireplace surrounds, wardrobes and crockery display cabinets, flour and salt storage tins, a deep cast-iron lion’s claw bath in the back lawn, and even a 1960s era grammarphone record player in the lounge.

The villa sits on a three hectare riverfront lifestyle section and is being marketed for sale by Bayleys Whangarei through a tender process closing on February 3. Salesperson Fin Higgins said that walking through the home was like stepping into a New Zealand heritage museum.

“It’s like visiting a MOTAT exhibit,” he said. “Much of the furniture is in its original native state. The floorboards and walls are all heart kauri which we believe was felled within the region.

There’s original brass handles on many of the imported Canadian cedar and imported redwood doors.

“Outside the back door is the original wash-house complete with concrete basin and the wood-fired copper used to heat up the water. It’s the sort of thing you only read about in history magazines... it’s the first time I’ve ever seen a house with this many links to the past.”

Mr Higgins envisaged the Ferry Road home would most likely be bought by someone looking at a restoration project to reinstate the clan Alison residence to its original condition. He believed the home in its current incarnation dated back to the 1930s or ‘40s.

“The home itself has great ‘bones’. It really is that old cliché… ‘they don’t make ‘em like this any more. If this homes was in the likes of Ponsonby or Devonport in Auckland it’d be worth millions – but then you wouldn’t have the vast back yard paddock playground or access to a serene swimming spot on the river at the end of the lawn,” he said.

“With the right interior design, the dated kitchen and bathroom could easily become interior décor statements as good as you’d find anywhere in New Zealand. It just needs new owners with vision and passion – but with an eye to the heritage past.”

One of the spinsters’ nieces named in the will, Sharron Sorensen of Waipu, has fond memories of catching a 20-pound snapper in the estuary river as a young girl playing at her beloved aunties’ home.

Mr Higgins said a nearby 50 hectare runoff farming block – part of what was the original Alison spread from 1866 - was also being offered separately for sale. The land is currently leased to a local farmer for grazing stock over winter. Mr Higgins said the homestead and farm blocks could be bought individually or together.

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