Bushtown Heritage Park tells the story of Waimate’s pioneering settlers through the lens of the sawmilling industry.
Our sawmilling history
The first pit mills were in action in the Waimate bush in the early 1850s. By the late 1860s, Waimate was a thriving mill town on the edge of a huge Totara forest. The timber was popular for railway sleepers, floor piling, and fence posts; and it was prized by Maori for carving.
A terrible fire in 1878 destroyed the centuries-old forest, some of the bush mills, and over 50 homes. Many families had to leave town, because their homes and livelihoods were gone.
Today, Bushtown volunteers and local youth groups and schoolchildren are replanting the site with Totara and other natives. Anyone interested to plant their own Totara Tree is invited to contact the committee for registration details and arrange to plant their own Totara tree as a donation to the project. Details and forms can be downloaded from the website.
There’s a working sawmill and growing collection of buildings being created to replicate Waimate as it was in the pioneering days.
Bushtown holds several open days and event days throughout the year, advertised on the Bushtown Facebook page. Similarly, visitors interested to view Bushtown can make arrangements through the website email or come along to the “Vintage Market” held on the last Sunday of each month.
Things to do at Bushtown
Walk the tracks through the native bush;
Venture into the historic buildings;
Take a ride on the miniature train (opening at the Big Steam Day, March 11, 2018);
Get to know the stories of Waimate’s past.
Bushtown is open on the last Sunday of each month,
or by arrangement.