From the editor
As rural- based business stories go i t had all the markings of a slick city- based PR campaign about it. Sure the farmers pictured were the usual rag- tag mix of wild- haired, ruddy- faced ‘ Southern Men’ looking spectacularly uncomfortable in front of a camera lens. But the message came through loud and clear... all these poor blokes wanted was a fair go. Never mind that all were at least millionaires, and one – in terms of assets anyway – was well on his way to multi ( millionaire) status. They were in the paper because they had a plan; to turn the hitherto overlooked Mackenzie Country into prime dairy pasture... and that plan had hit some sort of environmental or bureaucratic road block. To which, despite my recent editorial promoting the completion of a loop road around the tip of the Coromandel Peninsula as well as a road from Haast to Milford, I say thank bloody goodness. I have been riding and driving through ‘ The Mackenzie’ on and off for over 30 years now and I don’t think there ever has been a time when my heart didn’t soar as I dropped down from the Tekapo rise into i ts tawny and in summer bluetinged embrace. In i ts lovely, lonely, low stock number natural state i t is in sharp contrast to the patchwork quilt of high intensity cropping on the Canterbury Plains to the east and the eye- searing emerald green on the other side of the Old Man and Old Woman Ranges to the south. With so much water sluicing past thanks to the various hydro schemes I suppose i t was only a matter of time before canny dairy entrepreneurs started sniffing around the place. And sadly, the last time I was down there ( with Toyota in November last year) irrigators were already in evidence at the Omarama end of the high plain. I know money talks and there’s plenty of money washing around in the dairy industry at the moment. I also accept that some people can’t simply see a piece of bare or supposedly undeveloped land and not see an opportunity. But hell, what price some plain, simple old soul- settling solitude? It ’s what, after- all, so many tourists from countries far more populous ( and developed) around the world come here for. And – bar the fascinating history, seas of gorgeous wild lupins, cool, oldskool Roundhill ski field, Mount John Observatory, and ( on a good day) million dollar view across the turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki to Aoraki/ Mt Cook – it’ s also why when I am travelling by road south, I always make a point of detouring via ‘ The Mackenzie. It ’s certainly not to stare out the window at the another bloody dairy farm!
NZ4WD editor Ross MacKay.