Rural round-up


Sharemilking remains a viable career path – new report:

Sharemilking as a career path is alive and well, according to a report recently released on progression in the dairy industry.

The DairyNZ and Federated Farmers-resourced Dairy Progression Pathways report, undertaken by AgFirst, explores the latest trends and statistics relating to sharemilking and examines the issues created by milk price volatility.

Federated Farmers sharemilker farm owners’ section chairperson Tony Wilding says the report shows opportunities for progression still exist but the career pathways have been changing and will continue to do so. . . 

Feds pleased Ruataniwha gets another green light:

Federated Farmers is pleased to see the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme in Hawke’s Bay has another green light with Hawke’s Bay Regional Council (HBRC) confirming its intention to invest in the Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme.

HBRC today approved its $80million investment with a 7-2 vote, agreeing that all four of the conditions required for investment had been met.

The investment follows more than 190 Signed Water User Agreements in support of the scheme. . . 

Cost cutting blamed for lepto increase – Glenys Christian:

An increase in leptospirosis cases in Northland has been blamed on dairy farmers’ efforts to cut costs in a low-payout year.

While no cases were reported last year, the Medical Officer of Health has reported seven confirmed cases so far this year in the region with another under investigation.

Malcolm Fuller, Federated Farmers’ field officer for Northland, Auckland and Hauraki-Coromandel told the Auckland federation’s executive meeting he had heard of two northern farmers who were not vaccinating their herds this year.

“They can’t afford to get the vet in,” he said. . .

Support To Increase Voluntary Wool Contribution By 0.5c Gains Momentum:

Last month, one of New Zealand’s major wool growers and trustee for the Campaign for Wool (CFW), Renata Apatu of Ngamatea Station, front–footed an increase in contribution to the CFW’s activities by making an immediate commitment to up his contribution to 1c/kg, an increase of 0.5c, and challenging others to do the same.

Wright Wool Ltd, Kells Wool Ltd and Fred Tate Wools Ltd have accepted the challenge, increasing their contribution to 1c/kg also. They are now challenging others to join them, especially the bigger players who could really affect a positive increase.

“Having directly witnessed what the wool industry gets out of the activities of the CFW, an additional 0.5c/kg is one of the best returns on investment I have made,” says Mr Renata Apatu. . . 

Southland backs $250m Hollyford Highway:

The Southland District Council has unanimously backed the proposed Haast-Hollyford Highway going forward for government approval.

The controversial 130km toll road, planned by a private company, would pass through the Fiordland National Park. It is expected to cost $250 million.

The road has the support of all four West Coast councils and many local people, but needed Southland’s backing to proceed.

After a short discussion this afternoon, all councillors voted to support the project going into both the regional and national land transport programmes, to be investigated and assessed further. . . 

Shocks versus structural change is the big dairy question – Keith Woodford:

Right now, the focus of almost every New Zealand dairy farmer is on survival. It is a time when cash is king.

In the short run, it is all about turning cash inputs into milk. There can be no argument that this means using all available grass, but it also means not having hungry cows. Each farmer will find his or her way of achieving this. It may be through decreased stock numbers or it may be through appropriate supplementation to match feed deficits. In times like these, it is more important to travel the chosen path efficiently rather than to jump wildly from one path to the other.

Despite the focus on survival, it is also a good time to be thinking strategically. At the industry level, have we got it right?  In regard to what we are currently experiencing, how much of it is from one-off shocks and how much is due to structural change within global markets. . . 

The launch of The Snow Farmer ignites Cardrona’s spirit of fun – Beattie’s Book Blog:

John and Mary Lee (below right) have been at the heart of life in Cardrona for decades, establishing a world famous ski facility and saving the iconic Cardrona Hotel from dereliction. The importance of community has been integral to the Lees’ vision, their activities and adventures, significantly underpinning the local economy. Small wonder then, that the local community should gather in force to celebrate the launch of The Snow Farmer, penned by Otago Daily Times agribusiness reporter Sally Rae, at two very special events.

The first and official book launch was held at the Cardrona Alpine Resort, which the Lees hosted along with Paper Plus Wanaka. The infectious happiness of the Cardrona staff set the perfect scene, with Sally remarking that “it was like watching the characters in the book come to life.” The Lees neighbour Ed Taylor MC’d, skilfully recounting past incidents and keeping everything humming along nicely. Friend Shaun Gilbertson rather colourfully related past tales and Lyall Cocks spoke on behalf of the local council, praising John’s efforts and foresight. John responded with gratitude to Sally Rae and photographer Stephen Jaquiery for so expertly telling and illustrating his life story. John said that they were wonderful to work with and have put life into the story. He also thanks everyone who gave their time to tell their story and helped to enhance the book. . .

You can listen to Kim Hill’s interview with the Lees here. (Thanks Freddy for pointing me to this).

  Crossroads Wines to move winemaking to Marlborough:

The Crossroads Winery, in Hawke’s Bay, celebrates 25 years of quality winemaking in New Zealand. A large part of Crossroads’ success has come from its boutique, hand-crafted winemaking and small parcel sourcing within the Hawke’s Bay. In 2011, Yealands Family Wines acquired the winery and vineyards and continued to focus on the small lot, hand crafted winemaking strategy as they looked to grow the brand globally.

Yealands Family Wines was established in August of 2008 as the world’s first winery to be carboNZerocertTM since inception. Over the past 8 years, the Yealands Estate Winery has grown and developed into a state of the art winery and vineyard in Marlborough New Zealand, focused on high quality winemaking and site specific sourcing throughout the Seaview Estate Vineyard, and both the Awatere and Wairau Valleys in Marlborough. . . 

Changes to Milk NZ:

Milk New Zealand today announced that Andy Macleod, CEO of the Pengxin New Zealand Farm Group, has resigned with effect from 8 July 2016.

Milk New Zealand oversees the management of 16 farms located in the Central North Island and 13 in the Canterbury region.

Macleod joined Pengxin New Zealand Farm Group in 2013 and Terry Lee, Managing Director of Milk New Zealand, said the company valued and appreciated his contribution to the business and wished him well for the future. . . 

Ski field for sale


The Southland Times reports the Cardrona Snow Farm and Park  are up for sale.

Developer John Lee said there were two reasons for selling: “I’m 72 — close to 73 — that’s No 1. No 2, we got consent for the gondola in early May and it’s bigger than us.” The planed $17 million gondola, the biggest in the Southern Hemisphere, would take skiers and snowboarders from the valley up to the two resorts, a distance of 3880m.

The project was too big and too expensive to undertake without outside investors, he said.

John and Mary Lee have made a wonderful contribution to the Cardrona Valley, Wanaka and the wider community. You can read a copy of an ODT feature on John here.

Cardrona King


Wanaka used to be Queenstown’s poor relation; the former was the town where New Zealand families had cribs while the latter had a larger permanent population and attracted the tourists.


That has now changed, and generally for the better. Wanaka may be the smaller sibling, but it has grown and developed while still retaining its character so you know you’re in New Zealand, while at the other end of the Crown Range road you could almost be in any resort in the world.


Wanaka was always a better summer destination with more sun and warmer water; but Queenstown had the ski fields which made it more attractive in winter. If the credit for turning Wanaka into a year-round destination could be given to one person, it is John Lee.


John and his wife Mary developed the Cardona Alpine Resort, bought and renovated the Cardrona Hotel; were at the forefront of the campaign to seal the Crown Range road; built the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground on Pisa Range where motor vehicle and tyre companies test their products in winter conditions during the Northern Hemisphere summer;  built the Snow Farm  cross country skifield and lodge and developed the Snow Park all-terrain field for snow boarding in winter and mountain biking in summer.


A long and sometimes torturous plod through the resource consent process has just been rewarded with the granting of consent for a 3.88 km long gondola which will take people from the Cardrona Valley to the Snow Farm.


The Upper Clutha Valley Environment Society has been among a small minority of opponents to the Lee family’s resource applications. But the society won’t be appealing the decision because members’ energy is being directed at appealing another recently approved consent for the Parkins Bay development of a golf course and accommodation at Glendhu Bay.


John was profiled in the weekend ODT and because its stories don’t stay on-line long I’ll copy it in full.


JOHN LEE says he lives and breathes the Cardrona Valley.
‘‘It’s my life,’’ he says.
The 72-year-old’s lifelong connection to the rugged and scenic highlands surrounding the historic former gold-mining town of Cardrona is the driving force behind his mission to bring the boom times back. During the past three decades, Mr Lee has developed a range of alpine attractions designed to draw people and their all important spending habits back to the Cardrona Valley.

The former high country farmer turned alpine entrepreneur was granted resource consent this week to build a gondola to service the Lee’s family-run skifield operations on the Pisa Range.  With the gondola approved, Mr Lee, his wife Mary, and their son Sam are now pushing ahead with plans to develop a 300ha skifield and resort, with up to five chairlifts servicing the southern facing slopes above the Roaring Meg Stream.

Mr Lee originally announced his plans for a gondola and the tentatively titled Roaring Meg Resort to a small gathering of five Wanaka journalists in December 2003. Less than five years on, the Lees are readying themselves to begin construction on a 3.88km gondola, which will be capable of delivering up to 1000 people an hour to his 1500m high Pisa Range alpine playgrounds.

Mr Lee has developed a range of businesses in, around, and above the Cardrona Valley, since he decided in the 1970s that the prospects for highcountry farming were limited.  In 1964, he bought Waiorau Farm from his father and built up a 5000-strong merino flock on the Pisa Range high-country station. However, with almost 80% of the property above 1200m, winter and its accompanying snowfalls cut into the farm’s productivity.

The mechanisation of agricultural practices was forcing families and people out of the area, and Mr Lee decided a change in approach was vital if Cardrona was going to become a viable township. Mr Lee figured he needed to take his father’s greatest farming liability and turn it into an asset.  By using snow as a resource to create viable business effectively reversing the hemispheres Mr Lee was able to bring in valuable international dollars.

Mr Lee bought Mt Cardrona Station, on the western side of the valley in 1970 for $44,000, with the vague notion of developing the mountain tops for skiing despite having little interest in the sport himself.

By 1980, he had built a farm road into the upper reaches of Mt Cardrona, where helicopters then flew people up to the peaks and they skied back down to the road. A $1.5 million government development loan funded a double chair-lift a year later making Mr Lee Wanaka’s skifield pioneer.

He bought the historic Cardrona Hotel in the 1970s as a holding operation, renovated it, then sold the business for $12,000. The hotel has since gone on to establish itself as an ‘‘iconic’’ Southern watering hole, thanks in no small part to its association with a Speights advertising campaign.

Mr Lee sold Cardrona skifield in the late 1980s for a ‘‘couple of million’’ and turned his attention back to the Pisa Range and Waiorau. He was granted a recreational permit for the area despite opposition from the Federated Mountain Clubs of New Zealand, which was against any commercial development on land above 1200m.

Ironically, the one thing which helped him to gain consent to develop the Pisa Range highlands at the time a 13.5km mountain road has become an ‘‘outmoded’’ means of transport and will be replaced by the $16.6 million gondola.

Mr Lee has established three multimillion-dollar developments on the Pisa Range, with one the Southern Hemisphere Proving Ground (SHPG) a straight business operation sold off in 2004 to a Christchurch group for $20 million.

SHPG is a vehicle cold testing facility, used by multinational car and tyre companies, such as Toyota and Dunlop, to test their products in snow, ice, and winter conditions during the northern hemisphere summer. It is the only one of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

For the past 17 years, Mr Lee and his wife Mary have put their efforts into developing the Snow Farm as a nordic skiing operation.  It has since branched out to include summer-time activities and is used as a high-altitude training destination for triathletes, and occasionally professional rugby teams.

Sam Lee has managed the operations at Snow Park for the past five years and has quickly grown the terrain park into the southern hemisphere’s foremost alpine freestyle skiing and snowboarding resort. It includes a 50-bed backpacker lodge, and luxury apartments, alongside a bar, restaurant, and cafe. During summer, the Snow Park is reconfigured to the Dirt Park, with mountain-bikers replacing snowboarders and skiers.

The proposed Roaring Meg Resort will complete what John Lee calls his ‘‘Alpine Disneyland’’, and the long-term vision is about providing a destination, where everyone not only the skiers and snow junkies can enjoy the environment.

However, for the short term, the Lee family’s focus remains on ‘‘our catalyst for everything’’ the gondola. Construction is expected to take two years. Mr Lee says it will get around tourists’ hatred of New Zealand’s skifield roads.

‘‘This gondola will help raise the international rating of our skifield operations and it will bring more visitors to Wanaka and Cardrona,’’ he said.

Visitors, like their host, will be able to live and breathe the Cardrona Valley even if it is only for a short while.

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