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Otira Railway Station
The Otira railway station
The Otira railway station
Otira Railway Station is located in West Coast
Otira Railway Station
Otira Railway Station
Coordinates: 42°49′52″S 171°33′39″E / 42.8311°S 171.5608°E / -42.8311; 171.5608Coordinates: 42°49′52″S 171°33′39″E / 42.8311°S 171.5608°E / -42.8311; 171.5608
CountryNew Zealand
RegionWest Coast
DistrictWestland District
ElectoratesWest Coast-Tasman
Te Tai Tonga
 • Total54
Time zoneUTC+12 (NZST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC+13 (NZDT)
Area code(s)03
Local iwiNgāi Tahu

Otira is a small township fifteen kilometres north of Arthur's Pass in the central South Island of New Zealand. It is on the northern approach to the pass, a saddle between the Otira and Bealey Rivers high in the Southern Alps. Otira means "o" (place of) and "tira" (the travellers).[1]

John Burns Gallery of Modern Art nestled in the Ōtira valley

Otira was originally a stop on the Cobb and Co stagecoach from Canterbury to the West Coast. The Midland Line was extended from Stillwater to Jacksons in 1894 and then Otira in 1899, when the pass was navigated by coach from Otira until the railway tunnel opened in 1923. During construction of the tunnel, Otira housed about 600 workers and their families.

The Otira Railway Station was opened on 13 November 1900 (ex-Goat Creek on 15 October 1900), and closed in February 1992.[2]

In the 1950s the town had a population of about 350, but this had dropped to 11 in 1988. For Otira and its surrounds the population was 54 in the 2013 census, a decrease of 33 from 2006.[3]

The township is principally old Railways housing, much of which was constructed in Hamilton and shipped south to be assembled on site. As well as the railway station, there is a pub, a fire station, and 18 houses.[4]

On the 'town' side of Ōtira (as opposed to the village side) the old post office still stands as does the post masters house. The post office has been refurbished into an art gallery, 'John Burns Gallery of Modern Art'. The complex exhibits world class art which is a surprise to many visitors, housed as it is in the middle of the southern alps.

Close to the town are two major feats of civil engineering: the Otira Tunnel, and the Otira Viaduct.

Part of the Otira village was bought by Bill and Christine Hennah in 1998 for NZ$80,000, and in 2010 was put up for sale with an asking price of NZ$1.5 million.[4][5] No bids were received. The town was offered for sale again in 2013,[6] and it sold the following year.[7]

Otira Viaduct[edit]

The Otira viaduct

The Otira viaduct is to the south of Otira, between Otira and the Arthur's Pass summit. Completed in 1999 by McConnell Smith Pty Ltd, the 440 metres (1,440 ft) four-span viaduct carries State Highway 73 over a stretch of unstable land, replacing a narrow, winding, dangerous section of road that was prone to avalanches, slips and closures.[8]


  1. ^ Churchman, Geoffrey B (1991). On the Trans-Alpine Trail: A Travel Guide to State Highway 73 and the Midland Railway. Johnsonville, Wellington: IPL Books. ISBN 0-908876-73-4.
  2. ^ Scoble, Juliet (2012). Names & Opening & Closing Dates of Railway Stations in New Zealand, 1863 to 2012. Wellington: Scoble.
  3. ^ 2013 Census QuickStats about a place : Otira
  4. ^ a b "For sale: West Coast town with pub, 44 people". TVNZ. Archived from the original on 23 February 2013.
  5. ^ "Hennah Holdings Limited t_as Otira Village - Home". Hennah Holdings Limited. Archived from the original on 24 February 2013.
  6. ^ Stylianou, Georgina (30 November 2013). "One-pub town going for $1m". Stuff.
  7. ^ O'Connor, Sarah-Jane (26 July 2014). "Motueka man falls for Otira - buys it". The Press.
  8. ^ "Arthur's Pass - Otira Viaduct". arthurspass.com. Retrieved 2017-04-26.

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