Otago University Receives a Stunning Lakeside Gift

A large family homestead on the foothills of the Remarkables - described as a "spectacular property" - has been donated to the University of Otago.

The converted barn at Woolshed Bay, near Jack's Point just outside Queenstown, overlooks Lake Wakatipu and sits on almost 4ha. It is part of Remarkables Station and is believed to be worth in the millions of dollars.

The station has been in the Jardine family for generations, and current owners, farmers Dick and Jill Jardine, this week announced they are donating the homestead to the University of Otago.

"Wakatipu has been very rewarding to us," the couple said in a statement to the Herald, describing it as a "special sanctuary".

"This gift is our way of repaying and ensuring the future of this special place lives on in a rewarding and visionary way. The gift to the university immortalises its future.

"It is our wish for this land and woolshed house to be in the vision of the University of Otago to enhance and advance research, especially medical."

Sitting just metres from the lake edge, the homestead was described as "stunning" by university chancellor John Ward.

"It's sort of a home that I think everybody would love to have as their property, it's just stunning," he said, describing it as a "wonderful bequest".

He declined to put a dollar figure on what the property was worth, but said it was "of substantial value".

"It's one of the great gifts to an educational institute [in New Zealand]," he said, adding it was comparable to some of the donations to the University of Auckland's business school.

Donations to the business school have ranged from $3 million to $7.5 million in recent years.

Vice-chancellor Professor Harlene Hayne said the donation was "one of the largest single gifts the university has ever received".

It was even more remarkable because the Jardines were not alumni, she said, unlike many of the university's benefactors.

"They have taken a major leap of faith by entrusting us with this spectacular property," Hayne said.

The bequest was announced to University of Otago alumni and Jardine family friends at an event at the homestead on Tuesday evening.

Ward said, while it was still "relatively early days", the university intended to use the homestead as part of its move into the Queenstown area.

"We are working on a strategy to get more involved in this particular area, we already have significant input into it, and conduct some academic [programmes] here in Queenstown," he said.

"We see this as part of our collective hub of opportunity there. It will further complement facilities that we have in our health science and medical schools in Christchurch, Wellington and of course in Dunedin."

Hayne said the property would become a meeting place for the world's top minds.

"[The Jardine's] and our wish is that the Woolshed Bay [property] becomes a place where world renowned scholars can come together to think, meet, reflect and help solve some of the world's biggest problems."

The homestead was "absolutely perfect" for use in the short-term, Ward said, and has plenty of accommodation on site. But there was room for development.

"It's a perfect facility as it stands, but we have the ability to further enhance it as our needs are ascertained."

Remarkables Station steeped in history

The Woolshed Bay site is steeped in history, and dates back to the Central Otago gold rush of 1861.

As part of Remarkables Station, it was founded by William Rees, Queenstown's first European settler, explorer and surveyor, who used the woolshed in his pioneering days.

The Jardine family took ownership of the station in 1922, when the original homestead was at Kawarau Falls.

The Woolshed Bay homestead was built in 2007, when Dick and Jill Jardine converted an old woolshed into a family home. It sits less than 15m from Lake Wakatipu.

Sheep, deer and cattle are farmed at the station, and tourist activities, including skydiving, rock climbing, hiking, bouldering, and windsurfing, all take place on site.

There is also a native bird sanctuary at Woolshed Bay, and the Jardines described a micro-climate, which allows them to grow feijoas and citrus fruits which escape the severe winter frosts.

Part of the land was sold off and subdivided in 2013 for housing development and tourist accommodation.

The Jardines have previously donated a significant part of the station to the QEII Trust.

The Jardine Boulder Field is open to the public for recreational use, and with boulders the size of buses it is a popular sightseeing and rock-climbing destination.

The donation of the boulder field was made to "protect its uniqueness", the Jardines told the Herald.

"This is a happy success."