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Recreation future for New Zealand’s largest farm 

The high country station offers a range of recreation opportunities. Photo: DOC


The future of New Zealand’s largest farm is under review with the aim of improving conservation and recreation opportunities on the Crown-owned station.

DOC is consulting on the future management of Molesworth Station through an online survey, which closes on March 31.

The 180,787ha South Marlborough farm – about the size of Stewart Island – became a recreation reserve in 2005. The land has a number of tramping routes, including five huts and three campsites, but no formed multi-day tramping tracks.

The station lies at the head of the Awatere, Wairau and Clarence rivers and rises to a height of 1347m at Island Saddle. Taking up a vast stretch of high country between Kaikoura and Murchison, it is about a three-hour drive from Christchurch, Nelson and Blenheim. The Clarence River on the station also has been marketed as “New Zealand’s longest remote whitewater trip” and tour operators offer guided trips on the river.

The farm lease allows for 60,000 stock units and it has New Zealand’s biggest heard of beef cattle, numbering 10,000, but the lease expires in 2020. The 2013 management plan for the land sets out the intention to transition it from a farming focus, to include more recreation and conservation activities.

The management plan says the land is also a biodiversity hotspot for a wide range of dryland flora and fauna. This includes endangered lizards and a variety of birdlife, including New Zealand falcon, southern crested grebe and banded dotterel.

The region is also one of the country’s few centres of endemism, containing 39 species of plants found nowhere else – including one species only found on the station. A total of 78 threatened and at-risk plant species have been recorded on the farm.