The establishment of the settlement at Burkes Pass created a busy meeting point for travellers and Mackenzie country residents alike. This led to the need for increased quality and quantity of roading throughout the region. In 1863 the Mt Cook Road Board was formed as one of four boards created by the Canterbury Provincial Council and it acted as an early local authority, collecting money to pay for road building and maintenance.
Initially board meetings were held in private homes, public houses and stores around the district. The need for a purpose built office became apparent as the region developed and a purpose-built office was designed by Timaru architect Daniel West in 1875. The Board held its first meeting in their new Burkes Pass office on 6th June 1876.
At the time houses in Burkes Pass were very modest and functional, built of timber or cob. The Road Board Building is a comparatively large concrete building which comprises of two distinct single-storeyed wings reflecting its combined function of Road Board Office and residence.
Both have matching detailing such as concrete quoins and window sill brackets. The Board Room is a rectangular wing and the other half is a four roomed cottage with a verandah along the Eastern side. Originally both areas had separate exterior access with the board rooms featuring wing doors providing a grander main entrance to the building.
It is listed as a Heritage 2 building and is notable as an early concrete building. It’s a relatively rare surviving road board building as most have been demolished and it reflects New Zealand’s emphasis on road construction since the colonial period.
Eventually the Road Board evolved into the Mackenzie County council and meeting were held in on the property until 1891 when the council moved its premises to Fairlie.
Since then it has been used as housing for various families and as single-men’s quarters for the rabbit board. Over time alterations were carried out but by 1966 the property had fallen into disrepair and the decision was made to demolish it.
This rather grand addition to the Burkes Pass collection was saved at the last minute by a local artist who saw its potential and purchased it for the cost of demolition. It remains in private ownership to this day.