The old Otane Post Office building went on the market recently, heralding another chapter in the life of the property that is 104 years old this year.

Although this building was officially opened as a post office and residence on October 30, 1912, the history of the Otane Post Office goes back to 1865 when the first non-permanent post office opened in the township.

A photo of the building taken in the early 1960s. The original facade was replaced with a modern frontage a few years before the post office closed for good.
A photo of the building taken in the early 1960s. The original facade was replaced with a modern frontage a few years before the post office closed for good.

Information about the service held at the Otane Museum notes that at the time it was named Kaikoura, and a Mr John Stevens was the first postmaster, conducting the office from his home on the Waipawa-Te Aute Rd, then known as Great North Rd.

Before this, Otane was served by the Napier-Waipukurau weekly mail coach. This caused difficulties, however, as the rivers between the centres did not have bridges.

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At times when there were high flows, coaches were bogged down while attempting the fords.

After Mr Stevens, Mr Duncan Mundell took over and in 1876 established the post office in a general store in the township.

When the railway line was extended to Otane the post office was transferred to the railway station and Mr John Ingleton, the stationmaster, became the postmaster as well in 1883.

On March 1, 1884, the post office name was changed to Kaikoura North in an attempt to solve issues with mail being mistakenly delivered to Kaikoura in the South Island.

Even with the name change, however, there were still mix-ups, and the situation wasn't rectified until the post office became Otane in April 1910.

The railway station burnt down in 1893, and post office cash and stamps to the value of 14 were destroyed, but the building was quickly rebuilt.

The office remained part of the railway building until 1912, when it moved into the Higginson St building.

Records show that Scanlon & Cairns of Hastings built the post office and residence for 1215, a building constructed of native timbers.

The foundation stone was laid by Postmaster General Henry G Ell on

June 22, 1912, and the post office was granted permanent status on October 24, 1912.

A large crowd attended the laying of the foundation stone of the Otane Post Office building in 1912.
A large crowd attended the laying of the foundation stone of the Otane Post Office building in 1912.

This milestone was celebrated by the township 70 years later when a horse-drawn cart was used to deliver the mail, post office officials attended a ceremony, and Otane School children played old-fashioned games, such as three-legged, egg and spoon, and sack races.

The post office was closed in February 1988, and postal services transferred to the Otane Store.

Until 1996, when it was replaced by a computerised service, the building also housed the Otane telephone exchange.

Otane resident Vera Smith was living in the township in the 1970s and remembers the exchange was manual at that time, staffed by local people in three shifts, 24 hours a day, who were the eyes and ears of the town.

"When we first got here I rung up and asked for someone's number," Mrs Smith said.

"They told me 'she's not home, we just saw her go down the road'."

Her phone number at that time was '8', she recalled, and it was a toll call to phone Waipawa from Otane.

This was the era of the party line, which ended in Hawke's Bay on May 8, 1996, when the exchange was replaced by a computerised service.

Harcourts Real Estate agent Heatha Edwards said the property had attracted a good level of interest, locally and from overseas.

"It's one of those quirky properties that does not come up very often and I'm delighted to say there's been lots of genuine interest," she said.