Tunneller’s Cottage owned by Brendan and Natalie Canton.

Tunnellers Cottage A Winner


The award winning Tunnellers Cottage is settled in Arthurs Pass. This year it won first equal prize in the Retention and Restoration of domestic architecture at the Canterbury Heritage Awards, which were held on June 15th at the Isaac Theatre Royal. The biennial awards attracted over seventy entries across six categories.

Brendan and Natalie Canton are the current owners of the Tunnellers Cottage and have also spent the past fifteen years restoring an art deco house in Christchurch. Prior to purchasing the cottage the couple had looked at several old buildings and churches around New Zealand and became familiar with the challenges of owning and restoring historically significant buildings.

“In April 2017 Natalie went out one evening to pick up pizza and came home with a real estate brochure,” Brendan recalled. “It featured a picture of a cute little red cottage.  After one brief site visit, some research and lawyer’s checks I attended our first property auction and the cottage became ours,” he added.

In February 2018 the pair met with Selwyn District Council heritage consultant Dr Ann McEwan. “She made us realise that our passion for the preservation of the cottage was quite unique and special,” Natalie and Brendan said.

The couple’s decision to enter the cottage for the awards was driven by two factors:

Their strong desire to have this humble building recognised for its significance to the local people and area. As well as wanting others to realise that heritage can be accessible to everyone.

“While it’s wonderful that there are those who devote large amounts of money to preserve our significant heritage, it’s also important that everyone can play a part if they have the desire and passion to,” the pair stressed.

The current, and previous, owners of Tunneller’s Cottage have been dedicated to the retention, maintenance and preservation of this cottage. A thorough research project provided a good understanding of the history of it and resulted in authentic restoration. Originally built in 1910, it was then a three-roomed married man’s quarters. The original occupiers remain unknown. In the early twentieth century it was a tunnel workers’ day hut during the construction of the Otira Tunnel. In the 1930s the cottage was purchased and reconfigured into ski holiday sleeping quarters by the family that would own it for the next eighty years.

“This cottage continues to tell an important part of a story in Canterbury history.”

The owners of Tunnellers Cottage have carefully restored it to a family living space similar to that found originally; one that retains its heritage character and reflects its history.