16 Jan 2018

What does the future hold for NZ's largest farm?

11:01 am on 16 January 2018

The Department of Conservation (DOC) is calling for public opinion about how New Zealand's largest farm, Molesworth Station, should be managed.

Pudding Hill, Molesworth Station

Pudding Hill in Molesworth Station Photo: SUPPLIED

Molesworth Station is owned by the Crown and is designated a Recreation Reserve. It's managed by DOC on behalf of the crown and Landcorp lease the property.

A management plan for Molesworth was approved in 2013 with the intention of moving it from its traditional focus on farming to include more recreation and conservation activities.

The farming lease expires in two years, and Federated Farmers high country spokesperson Simon Williamson said it was crucial it remained a working station.

"It's very important for that type of land that someone is maintaining it for the pests and weeds ... and the public access side of it, if people get in trouble."

Currently the public can access the station at certain times of year and for particular activities.

Wilding pines invade farmland on Molesworth Station.

Wilding pines invade farmland on Molesworth Station. Photo: MPI

Mr Williamson said increased public access, or the locking up of farm land for public use only, was a worry because farmers do an important job as guardians of the high country.

"Having lived in the high country myself I know the amount of times that we've rescued people out of huts when there's been big snowfalls, or flooded rivers."

High country land had many problems that, if not managed by farmers, would cost DOC a large amount of money, he said.

"Wilding trees being one of them, deer haven't been an issue up until now, but they will become an issue again ... rabbits... TB is a problem in that country - well it has been but they've very much got on top of it."

The management of all those was funded greatly by the station itself.

"It's a delicate ecosystem, but it's one that is working the way it is. It needs to stay as an iconic cattle station, and I'm hoping that it will."

Acheron Accommodation House

Acheron Accommodation House Photo: SUPPLIED

Landcorp backing DOC

Landcorp said in a statement that it fully supported DOC during its consultation.

"Landcorp has been farming Molesworth since the 1950s. We have a good relationship with DOC and we work via the Molesworth Steering Committee to ensure the interests of all parties involved in the management of this iconic station are preserved and enhanced.

"The lease renewal in 2020 is an appropriate time for DOC to talk to interested stakeholders about what the future use and operation of Molesworth will be."

Landcorp said it recognised the expectations around the uses for Molesworth continued to evolve.

"Keeping Molesworth as a working farm has benefits from a land care perspective, and we support ongoing farming of the station.

"We know Molesworth well, and we will play an active role in passing on our insights and perspectives as part of the consultation process."

The Department of Conservation survey closes 31 March 2018.

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