Hope refresh will draw local visitors

January 07, 2021

A multimillion-dollar renovation of a historic Oamaru estate will encourage more domestic tourists to visit, its owners hope.

Teschemakers manager Judy Zhu confirmed the business had taken a major hit since lockdown and the absence of overseas tourists.

However, their departure had allowed for an influx of locals, who had been closed off previously as the resort had been booked out in advance by the overseas market.

To meet the new demand Teschemakers Resort, housed in what was formerly St Patrick's Dominican Girls School, planned to convert the former school dormitories into 24 new suites, at an estimated cost of $10,000 per room, Miss Zhu said. The total project would cost $3million.

With the help of local architect John McKenzie, who was responsible for the restoration of Oamaru Hospital, the three-storey building would have seismic strengthening and a lift and lobby installed.

Miss Zhu said the news, announced online, was well received by Oamaru residents.

"We didn’t realise how much the locals enjoyed the history of this place."

Teschemakers was built by William Teschemaker in 1862 and sold in 1905.

It was then given to the Dominican Order of Dunedin, which converted it into a girls’ boarding school. The school closed in 1977.

The resort owners acquired the estate three years ago and had welcomed former pupils for school reunions, Miss Zhu said.

"We hope more of the girls will return — there are still so many stories missing."

The dormitory conversion was stage 2 of the wider project for the resort, which included plans to convert the old classrooms, library and hall into a cinema and other public facilities, Miss Zhu said.

She also hoped to run events like the annual Halloween party held at Dunedin’s Larnach Castle.

The resort would need to make various health and safety checks before gaining consent from the Waitaki District Council.

Until then the dormitory would remain home to pesky possums, the "worst guests to have, because they never paid".