Fred and Myrtles Pāua House

Down at the very bottom of New Zealand is the small town of Bluff, which was once home to two local celebrities, Fred and Myrtle Flutey.

How did they come into fame you ask? The story started in the 1960s when Fred worked at the harbour and collected pāua shells to sell to jewellery makers and tourists. Pāua, a name was given by Māori to Haliotis Iris snails, is considered a local treasure and valuable to jewellers because of its iridescent colours. Pāua are plentiful in the shallow waters around Bluff, so what Fred couldn't sell he would bring home to his wife, Myrtle.

Sometime in these early years, Myrtle decided to decorate a mirror in the living room with the pāua shells. Myrtle loved how they looked, and tired of moving around the shells to clean, she began to hammer each shiny shell that made its way into the Flutely home onto the walls instead.

Over the next 40 years, the collection grew. With over 1,170 individual shells, every surface in their living room was soon covered, and the neighbours began to take notice. The Flutey's welcomed visitors into their home to view their collection, with hundreds of calling cards left by passers-by. It's estimated one million people came through the Flutey's house over the 37 years that the home was open to the public. They loved having visitors and let them look around at no charge.

In 1990, Fred and Myrtle received a certificate of Merit from the New Zealand Tourist Industry Federation. Tim Shadbolt, the Mayor of Invercargill, commented that the couple were invaluable to the area and that their home attracted attention and brought people from all over the country to Bluff.

The infamous collection is no longer in Bluff, but now has a home in the Canterbury Museum. A replica of the home was constructed, and the collection was carefully put back together using old video footage and photographs.