Tirau’s sheep and ram go to market

5:02 AM Saturday October 22, 2016 Colin Taylor

The ‘ram and sheep’ building on SH1 at 61-63 Main Rd, Tirau with dog building in left background.

The world’s biggest corrugated iron ‘sheep and ram’ buildings, which helped transformed the once sleepy South Waikato town of Tirau into a popular tourism stopover on State Highway 1,  have been placed on the market for sale.

“The big sheep and ram buildings of Tirau offer new owners many potential opportunities," says Blair Hutcheson of Bayleys Waikato who is marketing them for sale in a tender process closing on November 9.

“The fame, position and flexibility of the buildings would make an excellent art gallery space, destination restaurant and cafe or retail opportunity.” Hutcheson says.

Occupying a prime corner position at 61-63 Main Rd in Tirau, the corrugated iron sheep and ram buildings share a 2103sq m site, with a similar format ‘sheep dog’ building which is not included in this sale.

The sheep, located on the southern corner of the freehold site comprises a mixture of ground and first floor showroom space, with a cafe and kitchen.

The ram building adjoins the sheep and was added to increase showroom space and amenities. 

“The cafe has an external dining and garden area with direct access to the rear public carpark, three toilets on the ground floor, separate kitchen facilities and direct access to the rear storage sheds,” says Hutcheson.  

The sheep is currently tenanted on a monthly rental basis earning about $750 per month. A honey shop and cafe occupy around 100sq m of the sheep, with the remainder of the floor space and mezzanine levels presently vacant.

“In the mid-nineties after first opening the store, the owners actually lived above the shop floor within the sheep, which has a self-sufficient mezzanine level and multiple entry-points” Hutcheson says.

“While the freehold site is currently zoned for commercial use, the possibility remains for the new owners to reinstate the auxiliary flat, subject to council approval.”

True Commercial - Sheep%2c Ram and Dog buildings. 61-63 Main Rd Tirau - aerial.jpg

An aerial view of the sheep, ram and dog site in Tirau.  

The dog building sits on the northern most portion of the site and is tenanted to the South Waikato District Council. It houses the Tirau Information Centre and public bathrooms on a lease term of six years from October 2016, and generates annual rent of approximately $16,000 plus 70 per cent of the council’s rates.

“The owners of the section have the chance to buy back the dog building if the South Waikato District Council chooses not to renew its lease at any stage in the future,” Hutcheson says.

He says the location of the sheep, ram and dog buildings on SH1 is ideal with a high traffic bus-stop right outside, and a recently completed BP petrol station across the road.

“The corrugated iron landmarks attract a huge captive audience daily.”

The recent completion of the Waikato Expressway has also secured Tirau’s position as a destination stop for travellers heading south.

The sheep building was the first to be constructed and was born quite literally from a love of spinning yarn – with building creators and owners Nancy and John Drake selecting the site to set up Nancy’s dream wool and craft store.

“The end result in 1994, proved an instant hit with tourists and locals, as Nancy turned over nearly $1000 a-day from her wool and craft creations,” Hutcheson says.

Following the addition of the ram to the site in 2005, the rest of the town followed suit and, before long, corrugated iron signs, structures and works of art adorned the streets of Tirau – which has been dubbed the ‘corrugated iron capital of the world”.

With a permanent population of little over 800 people, the south Waikato town of Tirau has benefitted hugely from its position between Matamata or ‘Hobbitown’ - one of the locations where Lord of the Rings films were made, and the Putaruru Blue Springs, or Te Waihou Walkway – a pure water spring providing around 70 per cent of New Zealand’s bottled water.

“Selling such an original piece of New Zealand history is so rare, and the town of Tirau has been completely transformed by the Drake’s dream.” Hutcheson says,

“I’m sure their only regret is never realising John’s ultimate dream of adding a giant pink pig to the site.”