This former quarantine station was first opened in 1872 for people arriving New Zealand with contagious diseases. The facilities were refurbished and extended in 1918-19 and were maintained in readiness until World War II (1939-45) but were little used. The accommodation blocks were used in both World War I and World War II to house interned “enemy aliens”. For over 100 years, beginning in the early 1880s, it also served as an animal quarantine station. Animals arriving in New Zealand from other countries were quarantined on the island for 30–60 days to check they were free of disease. Blood samples were taken regularly and tested. Each animal was also treated for internal and external parasites.
In 1971 this particular facility, a maximum security animal quarantine station was completed. Until then, New Zealand had only ever imported livestock from Britain, Australia and Canada. The idea of a maximum security animal station was to enable scientists and geneticists to study new exotic breeds from outside of these ‘safe’ countries. When the station received its first shipment of animals in March 1972, it was the most sophisticated facility of its kind in the world. This allowed for the importation of a more diverse range of exotic animals such as elk, red deer, alpaca and llama, and capacity to hold more of the traditional imported livestock. In 1985 a scheme was introduced to import ova and embryos of cattle, sheep, and goats for implantation into New Zealand livestock. This inadvertently lessened the need for quarantine stations. It meant that existing livestock lines could be diversified rather than relying on importing. The quarantine station was closed in 1995.