Have your say on Molesworth fu­ture

The Timaru Herald - - FRONT PAGE - EMILY HEY­WARD AND PAULA HULBURT

New Zealand’s largest farm or mas­sive public park? You de­cide.

The Depart­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DOC) is open to a rad­i­cal re­think of the his­toric Molesworth Sta­tion, the rolling high-coun­try farm link­ing Marl­bor­ough to North Can­ter­bury.

The farm­ing lease at the 180,000-hectare cat­tle ranch – about the size of Ste­wart Island – ex­pires in 2020, and the public could help shape its fu­ture.

DOC com­mu­nity ranger Chris Woot­ton said a new on­line sur­vey would col­lect and gauge public opin­ion, al­though calls for sealed roads, tour buses and airstrips weren’t likely to fly.

‘‘It’s a fas­ci­nat­ing time; we’re look­ing at ev­ery­thing and we want as wide a range of peo­ple as pos­si­ble across New Zealand to take part,’’ Woot­ton said.

A man­age­ment plan for the pub­licly-owned Molesworth was ap­proved in 2013. Its in­ten­tion was to tran­si­tion Molesworth from its tra­di­tional fo­cus on farm­ing to in­clude more recre­ation and con­ser­va­tion ac­tiv­i­ties.

Public ac­cess to Molesworth was man­aged to bal­ance recre­ation, farm­ing needs, fire risk and public safety. Ac­cess was only avail­able to the public within cer­tain ar­eas and on spe­cific times of the year.

The sta­tion be­came a recre­ation re­serve in 2005, but the farm’s ‘‘re­mote­ness and wild­ness’’ made it spe­cial, and different to other farm parks open to the public, Woot­ton said.

‘‘It has to be bal­anced, but it’s crit­i­cal to look at a place with such high nat­u­ral val­ues at a time when tourism has boomed,’’ he said.

Molesworth was man­aged as a work­ing high-coun­try sta­tion through a farm­ing lease and graz­ing li­cence to state-owned Land­corp Farm­ing Ltd.

There were 3050 breed­ing cows and a fur­ther 2140 head farmed at Molesworth.

‘‘The lease is due to ex­pire and whether it gets re­newed in its cur­rent form or some­thing com­pletely different is still to be de­cided.

‘‘There is no kind of bias on DOC’s part at all. If peo­ple want to open it [the re­serve] up com­pletely or shut it down, we’ll look at ev­ery­one’s views,’’ Woot­ton said.

But any am­bi­tious plans could have un­wanted con­se­quences for neigh­bour­ing farms.

Up­cot Sta­tion, in the Awa­tere Val­ley, had been in the Steven­son fam­ily for three gen­er­a­tions. Farmer Bill Steven­son said they had been farm­ing sheep and beef at Up­cot Sta­tion ‘‘since for­ever’’.

He said if the Molesworth Sta­tion was made more pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble it would cre­ate an is­sue for stock, and a shift away from a farm­ing fo­cus could cre­ate wider prob­lems.

‘‘Molesworth is fa­mous for its farm­ing op­er­a­tion. I think tak­ing stock off a lot of that coun­try will be a fire hazard es­pe­cially.

‘‘Most of our stock like to be undis­turbed by the public,’’ he said.

Molesworth Tour Com­pany co-op­er­a­tor Lee Swift said mak­ing the sta­tion more ac­ces­si­ble could be a mixed bless­ing.

‘‘We ab­so­lutely love the Awa­tere Val­ley, and Molesworth Sta­tion. It could open up more op­por­tu­ni­ties but at the same time it could af­fect the tours,’’ she said.

The sur­vey closes on March 31. For fur­ther in­for­ma­tion and to do sur­vey visit sur­vey­mon­key.com.

PHOTO: AN­DREW MAC­DON­ALD

Molesworth Sta­tion has scorch­ing sum­mers and freez­ing win­ters.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.