A significant piece of cultural history in Te Horo, created by a world famous potter, is being carefully relocated by the NZ Transport Agency.

Two kilns built and used over a 40 year period by Mirek Smisek, which are directly in line of the Peka Peka to Otaki Expressway, will be moved slightly to the east of their current location in order to retain this important piece of history.

When the kilns were first built the property was seen from State Highway 1, especially when alight at night, providing a blazing sight for travellers.

"Mirek established a magic place there," Mirek's widow Pamella Annsouth said.


The kilns are not registered on the New Zealand Heritage list or registered as a historic building but they have significant value as the only known beehive kilns in New Zealand, built by one of the country's most highly regarded potters whose work is well known nationally and internationally.

The NZTA has brought in a specialist contractor who previously worked on the relocation of heritage buildings and structures on the NZTA Wellington Inner City Bypass Project.

Fletcher Construction project manager Andy Goldie said, "The relocation works will also be carried out with input and oversight of a building conservation architect.

"Two kilns and a chimney are being moved and the original open cover will also be re-instated."

A local interest group has formed to work on the long-term plan and vision for this site and the kilns.

Susi White and John Draper are establishing a trust, spearheading talks on the future of the kilns working with the NZTA and the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, to find an outcome that recognises the value of this piece of local and New Zealand history.

"Their vision is for it to become a cultural community centre and celebrate the work of Mirek Smisek," Andy said.

Susi said plans are still under wraps as they look into the options of how best to preserve and display the kilns.

History of the beehive kilns

Mirek began building his first brick beehive kiln in 1971 and built his second one especially for salt glazing from 1972-73.

A conservation plan commissioned by the NZTA for Mirek's kilns stated they were made from 4000 secondhand bricks brought over from the Nelson area, Golden Bay and Takaka.

The kilns were originally under an old timber framed, shingle clad shelter and are about 2.5m high and 2m in diameter, sitting on a concrete base.

The kilns now have extensive erosion and rust and are currently boarded up, protected by the elements while expressway work is underway.

Who is Mirek Smisek?

Born in 1925, Mirek was a Czechoslovakian refugee who came to New Zealand in 1951 first settling in Nelson in 1952.

He lived in Nelson for 16 years becoming New Zealand's first fulltime studio potter, producing pottery of a quality not yet seen in New Zealand.

During his early years in Te Horo after moving there in 1968, the conservation plan stated Mirek was extremely productive, always having a full order book with the pottery open seven days a week from dawn till dusk.

In the 1990 Queen's Birthday Honours, Mirek was made an Officer of the Order of the British Empire for services to pottery.

Mirek made a large number of pots for The Lord of the Rings in 2000 and in 2011 received the Gratis Agit award from the Czech government for the promotion of the good name of the Czech Republic from abroad before passing away in May 2013.