Needhams Cottage, Macetown
Image: Anna Morley | DOC

Archived content: This media release was accurate on the date of publication. 


Wetlands have been torn up and new hill-climbs and off-road tracks illegally created by negligent 4WD and off-road motorbike users at historic Macetown.

Date:  21 December 2022

Located 15 km from Arrowtown in Central Otago, Macetown sprung up in the early 1860s with the discovery of gold in the Arrow river. By the 1930s it was a ghost town.

Today Macetown is a Historic Reserve and its major structures have been restored, including a gold-mining battery, cottage, bakehouse, and building remnants of the old schoolroom and stone fences.

DOC Operations Manager David Butt says a recent site inspection revealed some visitors are not taking care to preserve the site. “Unfortunately, the reserve has been damaged before. The old cemetery slopes are still bearing scars from water scouring in old wheel ruts. The land has been slowly healing, so it is a blow to learn of the recent vandalism.

“We are asking for anyone who sees any illegal or suspicious activity, to contact the 24-hour DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) immediately and report it. All calls and personal details are treated confidentially.”

Access to Macetown is hard earned, via a 4WD track that crosses the Arrow river 23 times. Visitors can walk, mountain bike or 4WD depending on weather conditions and river levels.

The DOC website states vehicles must stay on the officially formed tracks. “The terrain is challenging and includes sections of narrow road with steep drop-offs and blind corners. Experience in rough conditions is essential with drivers being responsible for recovering their own vehicles in the event of a mishap,” says David. “The track is subject to erosion, and we recommend people check the weather conditions before they go.”

Joanna Booker of Soho Properties says the land is extremely fragile and any damage takes years to recover. Weighing in on the recent damage, she adds, "We have been extremely disappointed to see a small group of trail bikers blatantly ignoring barriers and signage and destroying scrub to access walking and cycling tracks.

“Soho Property Ltd would like to remind all track users that the land is private land. Access is a privilege which has been generously given by the landowner, and we ask that track users respect the landowners’ conditions of access.”

Damaging recreational, scenic, historic, scientific, natural features or flora and fauna at a reserve can result in a fine of up to $100,000 and/or up to 2 years in prison under the Reserves Act.


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