Otira's new owner has grand plans for the alpine settlement he's bought for under $1 million




A man who bought pretty much the whole settlement of Otira in the Southern Alps for less than $1 million plans to do up the historic hotel and create an exhibition of the early roading in the area.

Lester Rowntree has bought almost the whole town of Otira and has huge plans to transform it.
Source: Seven Sharp

Lester Rowntree has chosen Otira near Arthur's Pass as his home and bought nearly all of the settlement freehold this month.

Seven Sharp reported Otira is a little rough round the edges, but Mr Rowntree sees it as an investment in history and his first job is the century-old hotel.

"It's been run down for long, long time and we just want to want to build it up again. Things get lost in the mists of time and young people coming forward don't see that sort of thing and that would be a hang of a shame," he said.

He showed Seven Sharp around the hotel, including the most famous room where Richard Seddon, New Zealand's longest-serving prime minister, used to stay on visits.

He also showed photos of horses towing old cars through the river and said he wants "to do a big history show of the early days of the roading through here".

Mr Rowntree said he decided he wanted to buy the settlement because he loves the mountains and it's all bush and river country.

And he wanted somewhere to show off his horses and all his unusual horse drawn vehicles currently stored away including "a magnificent 1898 horse drawn hearse". 

While it's all going to take a good while he's ready to enjoy the journey.

"We're here for very short time on this Earth. If do have a dream you've got to go for it and do the best you can do." 

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