Farmers want the country’s biggest farm Molesworth Station to stay as a farm.
. . .The Department of Conservation started an online survey on the future of Molesworth Station, between Marlborough and Canterbury, in January to gauge public appetite for a radical rethink of the farm.
The survey follows up a 2013 management plan for the 180,000-hectare Molesworth, about the size of Stewart Island, which looked to move the station away from its traditional farming focus to include more recreation and conservation activities.
But Molesworth neighbour Steve Satterthwaite, of Muller Station, said getting rid of farming could create “major ramifications” for the environment.
“As far as Molesworth is concerned, I believe it should continue to be farmed and there’s plenty of reasons as to why,” he said.
Without farming, there could be pest problems and weed issues, as well as a huge fire risk, Satterthwaite said.
Weeds, pests and fires don’t observe farm boundaries.
Any weed and pest management and fire prevention measures farmers do can be nullified if their neighbours aren’t doing their best too.
It was concerning the public could weigh in on the future of the Molesworth and potentially “sway” what happened with the station, he said.
“It really concerns me that unaffected people that have no knowledge of the utilisation of Molesworth and the risk associated with not farming it can potentially have the input to sway the politicians or the decision-makers because of their numerical numbers,” he said.
“We are in the east of dry land zones, and if the fuel was allowed to be completely uncontrolled and public have unlimited access, the risk of a major fire in that environment would be one that would need to be considered seriously.” . .
Middlehurst Station farmer Susan Macdonald said she would like to see farming at the station continue, with the possibility of providing a little more public access.
She said it was “important” for farming at the station to continue for pest and weed reasons.
“I would like to see it continue to be farmed in harmony with the environment and in harmony with people.
“There’s a lot of land there and I think it’s got a huge value in terms of agriculture.” . .
J Bush & Sons Honey co-owner Murray Bush said the “status quo” needed to continue into the future.
“I think there is a good balance between public access and farming but not having farming would actually make the property go backwards, I believe, and then it wouldn’t have that same appeal to the public,” he said.
Bush said allowing public access to the station year-round could create a safety risk.
“If you open the road 52 weeks of the year and let people just do what they want … if it was never closed and it was open, there’s no communication up there so unless there’s millions and millions and millions of dollars going to be spent on public access safety … it’s not an environment to be taken lightly,” he said.
“Unless you’re going to employ people on the ground 52 weeks of the year just to look after the tourists, it’s a real issue and I think people underestimate that environment.” . . .
The neighbours’ concerns about changing the balance between farming and access are valid.
The road through Molesworth is closed in winter and can be closed in summer if the fire risk rises.
That is necessary for public safety and to protect the environment.
Molesworth is farmed by Landcorp which makes a very small return on capital but income from the farm offsets the costs of weed and pest control, and grazing reduces the fire danger.
The station generates an income, looks after the environment and allows some public access.
If the area farmed is reduced the income will drop, even if DoC lets commercial concessions for access, and costs will increase.
Molesworth is the country’s biggest farm and it should continue to be farmed.