Te Kiteroa, a well-known lodge near Waimate, has gone on the market, which has rekindled memories of its earlier life as a Women's Division of Federated Farmers' rest-home. Central Rural Life's Chris Tobin reports.

Women's Division of Federated Farmers, the forerunner of Rural Women, took seriously the plight of farming women.

The organisation grew out of a desire to help women living on backblock farms.

As part of that, the division developed a rest-home scheme.

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Current owners of Te Kiteroa, Ann (70) and Gary Dennison (68) say the lodge was bought by the women's division in 1945 and was one of several they owned.

''It was a place where farmers' wives could come for rest and relaxation while arrangements would be made to have housekeepers go to the farms while they were away,'' Mrs Dennison said.

Rooms in the building in the lodge had the names of various WDFF branches on the doors.

The homes were open to country women in need of rest whether they were members of the division or not.

Besides Te Kiteroa, the division acquired other sprawling rest-homes in Nelson (called Melrose), Auckland (Scotlands) and Wellington (Honda).

Fees for staying at the hostels were supplemented by the division's national funds as well as donations made to the branches.

Mrs Dennison said the division sold Te Kiteroa in 1978 when the lodge became a B&B until she and her husband bought it in 1992.

The building's exterior was in bad shape when they bought it, Mr Dennison said.

''We've had a programme of renovation since then, steadily upgrading.''

Mr Dennison grew up on a farm near Waimate and after leaving the local high school trained in Christchurch and Wellington in the Civil Aviation Division of the Ministry of Transport.

From there he joined the International Air Transport Association working around the world as an adviser to various governments on improving their civil aviation infrastructure.

The Dennisons met and married in Libya and have a daughter, Rose.

In 1995, Mr Dennison started working for the International Air Transport Association on establishing fuel-saving direct air routes between major cities such as Tokyo, Beijing, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur, London and many others.

By then he and his wife had bought Te Kiteroa, leasing it out and returning for Christmas.

''We developed a love for the place. We'd seen a lot of the world and it made you appreciate what was on our doorstep here.''

They bought land around the lodge and after a 12-year stay in Singapore decided it was time to return permanently to New Zealand and Te Kiteroa in 2007.

Since then they have established a vineyard and winery, developed Te Kiteroa as a B&B and opened a restaurant over the road which they lease.

Besides keeping alive the memory of Te Kiteroa's time as a women's division rest-home, the Dennisons have preserved the story of the original owner and builder of the lodge, Emily Phillips.

A large picture of the former housekeeper turned grand lady, bedecked in fine clothing and with rings sparkling on her fingers, hangs above the lodge's staircase.

Phillips had been housekeeper to Allan McLean, a substantial landowner whose 16,187ha property Waikakahi near Waimate was bought by the Government and broken up into 130 farms, 14 runs and 47 village sections.

McLean built a large wooden mansion, Holly Lea, in Manchester St in Christchurch, and after his death left Phillips 3000 pounds a year to live on and the right to live in Holly Lea for life.

After a few years, however, she decided to leave Christchurch and in 1913 Te Kiteroa was built. She lived there in grand style, waited on by staff and with a chauffeur to transport her around the town and region until her death in 1921.

Having owned Te Kiteroa for more than 20 years, the Dennisons have decided it is time to move on although they will remain ''on the hill'', as they call it.

They intend to build on land they own next to the lodge.

And then a new chapter in the story of Te Kiteroa will begin.

Central Rural Life