Kiwi brings German train station back to life

Kiwi brings German train station back to life

9 July 2020

Peter Macky has a lifelong interest in heritage buildings. So, when he came across a rundown train station while out cycling with friends in the countryside south of Berlin, he was fascinated.

“There was this building in front of me, and it was just incredible. It was beautifully designed, was decaying with trees growing out of the roof and it was falling into disrepair.

“Clearly it had something to do with the railway, but why was it there? It got my immediate attention and I was fascinated by it.”

The building had a ‘for sale’ sign and after some protracted negotiations with the vendor, the Kaiser’s Train Station, or Kaiserbahnhof in Halbe, 50km south of Berlin, was his.

With his Kiwi ‘can-do’ attitude, in a country where he spoke little German, Peter set about getting the right people on the job and renovating the fine 1865 brick building which was once used by the Kaiser and his family as a base for their hunting trips to the surrounding forests.

The ‘do up’ was not without its hitches.

“The restoration was extremely complex, as it was all heritage, and very fraught. But once I found the right people, the right bricklayers, carpenters, painters, decorators, plasters, landscapers … it was a wonderful process.”

The building was officially opened in August 2019, exactly ten years to the day since he’d first seen it, an opening attended by German dignitaries and New Zealand diplomatic staff, and with over 80 guests who had made the long trip from New Zealand.

Today the building is used as a community resource – for recitals, weddings, performances, and art shows.

“Until the Covid-19 outbreak it was used quite heavily for what it is designed for, receptions. The revenues from those functions help to pay the outgoings.”

Peter says the primary reason he got involved was because of his life-long interest in heritage, architecture and conservation.

“And me and my partner love being in Berlin, and it was a way to say to the German people, ‘thank you for your hospitality’.”

Peter, 67, and his partner Yuri Opeshko run a cycling tour business out of Berlin, Easy Cycling Tours, during the Northern Summer. They spend the other six months at their home in Herne Bay, Auckland.

The train station renovation is just one aspect of Peter’s CV which is as long, as it is varied. He is a former chairman of the Auckland Warriors Rugby League Club, as well as a long serving chairman of both the Ponsonby Rugby League Club, and Auckland Rugby League.

He is a life member of the New Zealand Historic Places Trust, now called Heritage NZ, and former board member of the Auckland Civic Trust which is involved in heritage conservation.

Owning his own publishing company, Peter has authored books including Coolangatta, a Homage – the story of a fine Arts and Crafts house in Remuera Rd, which was demolished.

When in New Zealand he is heavily involved in the Duffy Books for Kids programme, sponsoring 16 schools.

He is a patron of various Arts organisations – the Auckland Writers’ Festival, NZ Ballet Foundation and the Auckland Theatre Company, and lifetime patron of the National Museum of the Royal New Zealand Navy.

Peter had a 30-year successful career as a lawyer, starting out at Russell McVeigh, specialising in property and company law. He then worked for 15 years at Auckland law firm Johnson Pritchard Fee and Partners, as a solicitor and later partner.

At aged 39, he retired from the law to complete a Masters’ degree in law at New York University.

Then came private practice at his own firm in Parnell, Macky Roberton, and another retirement from law at aged 57. Corporation law, leasing and licensing and franchising, were his areas of expertise.

“I loved it, you are independent, you have your own business to run and are providing a service in an area of interest which I enjoyed.”

How he came to Hamilton for schooling in the 1960s is an interesting story. Having three sisters, and a history of family attending boarding schools, his mother interviewed some headmasters, before settling on St Paul’s.

“It was in large part because of Mr Hornsby. My mother had been very impressed with him when they met. It was also because of location. It was closer than Wanganui Collegiate and further than Kings.”

Etched in his memory were some very ‘colourful’ people on the staff.

“There was a Mr Baker who used to start all the races for the athletics. He would come out in a safari outfit and safari hat. Quite hysterical now, like a Monty Python skit. Mr McCullough was a famous music teacher and again he was a marvellous man, a revered man, and one of the icons of the school and its history. There were some wonderful people on the staff.”

Peter says he has had little contact with St Paul’s since leaving, perhaps because he did his final two years closer to home at St Kentigern.

Peter has returned to the school just once, for the funeral of his great uncle John Allen, QC, a Hamilton lawyer, and former St Paul’s board member.


(Source: Network Issue 99)