On the 1st of January 1842, Charles and Elizabeth Matthews and their 9 month old son Edwin departed England on the sailing ship the  "London" to take their 'chances' in the new colonies. The 4 month journey, living in a 2 metre square space below deck with no fresh air was difficult. Baby Edwin did not survive the journey. Life was hard for these early European settlers and the next 8 years were spent in Wellington with Charles setting up shop as a shoe maker and leatherworker. Elizabeth gave birth to 5 more children with only 2 surviving to adulthood - Alfred and Mary-Anne.

Charles dream of owning land was fulfilled in 1850 when he took a lease on Wharepapa station - a block of land bordering Lake Onoke and the coast of Palliser bay, eventually purchasing it for 110 pounds 8 years later. The lease and purchase of blocks further inland during this time included Waiorongomai Reserve and Burlings Flat that together made up the eventual 23000 acres of Waiorongomai station.

The largest earthquake in New Zealand history struck on the 23rd of January 1855 - a magnitude 8.2 that created violent upheavals and devastation around Wellington and Southern Wairarapa and generated tsunami waves up to 10 metres high. The foreshore on the south coast lifted nearly 8 feet making the notorious journey from Wellington to the Wairarapa considerably easier for both humans and stock.

Charles  ran cattle and merino sheep on the station but the merinos didn't suit the country and in 1870 Romney's were introduced. Their only surviving son, Alfred took over the running of the farm at age 17 and in 1875 established a Romney stud - the first in New Zealand - a long and proud history for 140 years of providing Romney bloodlines to New Zealand farmers.

The 7 generations of the Matthews family..... Charles & Elizabeth,  Alfred & Hannah, Raymond & Bessie,  Jack & Mary, Raymond & Susie and now Charlie & Karla and their children - have all farmed and cared for the land and the people who live and work on Waiorongomai through war time, natural disasters and economic recessions. Hundreds, if not thousands of people can lay claim to having connections to Waiorongomai Station and many still visit and remember their time working on the farm, growing up as children here, hunting in the hills, marriages, baptisms and funerals at the church and  school years spent in the Waiorongomai school house.  

"In the history of the universe we're all dots; in the history of New Zealand, Waiorongomai​ and the Matthews family are as one; one entity: lives and land locked together as the professional caretakers of a farm that has responded to their care and commitment."

"...there's a responsibility to preserve Waiorongomai in a way that honours all the hard work of earlier generations.

It's a legacy to be passed on."



Linda Thornton 2011

* In 2017 Wharepapa was once again purchased by the Matthews and is run alongside Waiorongomai.


Waiorongomai Station is 2976 hectares in size, of which 1550 ha is effective (grazeable) and the remainder made up of bush and wetlands.

Wharepapa Station is 530 hectares, of which 350 ha is effective.

Waiorongomai and Wharepapa carry approximately 20 000 stock units consisting of approximately 1800 cattle (breeding cows, replacements and finishing stock),  and 10000 sheep (5500 breeding ewes, replacements and finishing stock). We also buy and sell 2000 - 5000 trade lambs each year depending on the markets and season and 250 - 300 weaner cattle. The majority of our beef is sold to the New Zealand market and our lamb is sold within New Zealand and exported to overseas markets through OVATION. 

Visit OVATION to read more of our story and a watch a video

There are 5 full time staff members working on Waiorongomai and 1 farm manager running Wharepapa Station. 

Waiorongomai Church

In 1925, R.W. Matthews and his brothers built Waiorongomai Church to fulfill Alfreds (father) desire to have a church for all who lived in the area to use, particularly for baptisms/ weddings and funerals and as a tribute and memorial to the pioneers of the district and to his own parents.

The church was consecrated in 1927 and the little graveyard, the relocated gravestones and brass plaques tell many a story of the lives of the family.

The Anglican diocese continues to take services 4 times a year - Carol service, Christmas Day, Easter Sunday and All Saints remembrance day.

The church is frequently visited by passerbys and is a popular venue  for country weddings and baptisms.

Please contact the South Wairarapa Anglican Parish for further information.

WAIORONGOMAI: The Land and the People

"A very few pioneer New Zealand families have lived and farmed their on their land for six, even seven generations. These New Zealanders and their stories, shaped by the land itself, are an important part of the history of Aotearoa.


This is the story of one such family whose forebears, Charles and Elizabeth Matthews, arrived in 1842 on the sailing ship London. They settled first in Wellington but, drawn by the pull of the land, moved to the Wairarapa and purchased the first acres their descendants still farm today. Seven generations have lived on 'Waiorongomai'.


Diaries written by Alfred Matthews, the memoirs of his grandson Jack, and tape recorded conversations with more recent members of the family, all play a part in this history. It is the story of a family devoted to its farming, the development of one of the country's leading Romney sheep studs and the passing on of a love of the land from one generation to the next. It is also dedicated to all the men and families who have worked on Waiorongomai over the last 160 years"



by Linda Thornton  Published 2011 

*available for purchase  $40 per copy (softcover)  email

The Environment

Never before have New Zealand farmers been under such political and social scrutiny in how "we should" care for the land we own and live on. On a daily basis we are bombarded in the media with negative stories of negligence of our environment, intentional polluting of our land and water ways and an overwhelming bias towards laying all New Zealand's environmental concerns at the feet of farming and agriculture. When our industry fights back and tries to inject a sense  of balance to the "blame game" we are once again targeted at a level  that is unprecedented.

Sadly the response to many of the "Environmental concerns" are driven by politics which has resulted in a "one size fits all - and blames all" approach.


Waiorongomai sits between the Remutaka Ranges and Lake Wairarapa. Wharepapa overlooks Lake Onoke and the Cook Strait with the Remutaka Ranges at it's back. 

As caretakers of Waiorongomai for nearly 170 years,  generations of Matthews have continued to value, preserve and enjoy the forest and other trees on Waiorongomai, to continue to plant and protect vast areas of the farm which were never cleared (thanks to the incredible foresight of the early generations).

We continually strive to create a balance between running a profitable farming business while ensuring the land is left in better condition than when each successive generation "takes over the care".  

  • Working alongside:  South Wairarapa Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council, The Lower Wairarapa Valley Development, Ruamahanga Whaitua Committee, Department of Conservation, Destination Wairarapa.

  • "Working towards" the protection of waterways from any negative impacts of stock, cultivation and nutrients.

  • Significant investment in "on farm" water storage and reticulated water systems.

  • Creation of comprehensive Nutrient Budget and Farm Environment Plan - working documents.

  • Continue to plant and protect existing plantations, wetlands and 3 QEII Blocks.

  • Agreement to fence off "significant wetlands" in addition to the large areas that we have already placed under protection.

  • Protect the native bush with fencing and pest management.

  • Waste management plan

  • Community - access arrangement with DOC through private land to the "Picnic Area" and Remutaka Forest Park for walking up Waiorongomai River to the Waiorongomai Hut

  • Park over Property for self contained motor homes in "picnic area".

  • Hunting access by permission/permit only. Ph Charlie 0274728027 to enquire.

*****Trespassing/walking/entering any part of Waiorongomai or Wharepapa  without permission, carrying firearms, with dogs is:


****police will be notified, photos of vehicles and number plates taken and permanent trespass notices will be issued.


           E-MAIL: info@waiorongomai.co.nz

© 2018 by  Waiorongomai

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