Story: South Canterbury places
Page 3 – Fairlie
Small settlement on the Tengawai River, 16 km south of Fairlie. Albury grew after the railway reached it from Washdyke in 1882. But its population, never above 200, declined from the mid-20th century.
Main point of entry on State Highway 8, into the Mackenzie Country, 22 km west of Fairlie. It was crossed over by Michael Burke of Raincliff Station in the late 1850s.
Between 1876 and 1891 the Mt Cook Road Board and then the Mackenzie Country Council was based at the Burkes Pass township, after which the council moved to Fairlie. The settlement today has a scattering of holiday homes.
Originally an outstation of the Levels sheep run, 29 km south-east of Fairlie, Cave became a small village with the arrival of the railway and the gradual subdivision of the Levels and other nearby sheep runs. Over the hill from the settlement is St David’s Memorial Church, built by the Burnett family.
Trees for soldiers
The mature deciduous trees that line Fairlie’s main street are part of Peace Avenue, planted as a memorial to fallen soldiers after the First World War. The avenue was intended to stretch from Cricklewood to Tekapo, but only the Fairlie trees were planted.
Chief town of inland South Canterbury, 62 km north-west of Timaru. It had a 2006 population of 717, down from 846 in 1996. It lies on the upper Ōpihi River at the junction of State Highway 79, from Rangitātā via Geraldine, and State Highway 8, from Washdyke and Timaru.
Beyond Fairlie, State Highway 8 crosses Burkes Pass into the Mackenzie Country, en route to Aoraki/Mt Cook and the Southern Lakes. An accommodation house opened at Fairlie Creek (as it was known until 1892) in 1865. The railway reached the town in 1884 and a regular coach service to Aoraki/Mt Cook began in 1886.
Fairlie good wool
Fairlie wool is among New Zealand’s best. Fred Saville, who gained a world record price in 1951, claimed the local water gave ‘a good dip’ (used to souse sheep). Fairlie wool was also used for the tennis balls at the 2006 United States Open.
Fairlie plays a role in the tourist industry and is the service town for the Fairlie basin – including the farming districts of Clayton, Ashwick Flat and Sherwood Downs. It is the seat of the Mackenzie District and the site of Mackenzie College, a co-educational secondary school.