Turn inland from the coast at Timaru, halfway down the South Island of Aotearoa New Zealand, head towards the mountains, through the tiny settlement of Pleasant Point, through the picturesque town of Fairlie, climb up through the hills and you’ll come to Burke’s Pass. Burke’s Pass proudly proclaims itself “The Gateway to the Mackenzie Country” and indeed, that’s how it began.
After the sheep rustler James Mackenzie had forged a path into the high country at the foot of the Southern Alps, other graziers followed. Burke’s Pass became a staging post, the last outpost, in fact, before the Mackenzie Country. There was a pub, a general store, a tiny church, a handful services, along with a huddle of houses and workmen’s huts.
These days Burke’s Pass is much more than the gateway to the Mackenzie Country and certainly much more than a staging post. A population of artists and creators have tapped into the essential character of the place. There are businesses selling wooden goods, local souvenirs and memorabilia. Vintage cars are parked about the place. Artist Julie Grieg works here, on beautiful paintings that portray the lives of the Mackenzie Country farmers, their tough merino sheep, their hardy collie dogs and the magnificent but merciless country where they lived and worked.