John Anderson was the first Anderson to farm Bog Roy
(pictured), near Omarama, taking up the lease in 1919.
Photo by Ruth Grundy.
It is fair to say farming Bog Roy station has put each
generation of Anderson family to the test.
It is also true to say their dogged determination to face
down the challenges thrown at them is testament to their love
and vision for the land.
Dave Anderson is the fourth Anderson generation to take on
the high country run.
It's his and his wife Lisa's hope their children, Pippa (4)
and Robbie (2), will one day take their turn as managers and
guardians of the ''unique piece of dirt'' successive
generations of Andersons have called home.
''It is because we love it ... It is in our blood.
''It's unique, looking after this piece of dirt - it's pretty
amazing,'' Mrs Anderson said.
''To be out following a healthy mob ... on good, hill country
pasture - it's pretty good,'' Mr Anderson said.
It was a cliche but the couple saw themselves as
''caretakers'' rather than ''owners'', he said.
As such it was their role to ''grow enough fat in the
business'' to sustain the family into the future, he said.
The first Anderson to farm Bog Roy was Dave Anderson's
great-grandfather John, who took up the lease in 1919.
It was established in 1891, carved off as one of six leases
from Otematata Station.
The early days were hard, punctuated by what historians
called the great floods, the great snows and the great
droughts, events which wiped out stock in the tens of
Rabbit numbers exploded and they overran the country,
decimating pasture and ruining many farmers.
But the Andersons have also had to brace themselves against
the brisk and cutting winds of change which repeatedly sweep
south from the capital.
While the 2860ha dry-land property has always sloped from
steep, dry hills, through rolling country and down into
flatter land, in the early 1960s, its wide, fertile river
basin was requisitioned and filled to become part of New
Zealand's largest man-made lake - Lake Benmore.
It was snow and rabbits which drove farmers to the edge in
his great-grandfather and grandfather's time, but in latter
years it had been battles with bureaucracy which had pushed
the family to the brink, Mr Anderson said.
Once the gates on Benmore Dam were lowered, about 1200ha of
good silt-wash land shared by Bog Roy and Peak Valley went
under the lake.
The two stations, separated by a swing bridge across the
Ahuriri River, had been farmed together as a traditional high
The more sheltered flat land of Bog Roy, which rises to about
970m, was used for growing feed and lambing and Peak Valley,
which rises to 1800m, provided the high summer grazing
''The raising of the lake took the balance away from the
country,'' he said.
''It turned the [journey to Peak Valley] into a 40-mile
[64km] commute ... increasing the cartage.''
He was told of ''very heated'' arguments with officialdom
over giving up that land.
Bog Roy and Peak Valley stations were joined by a swing
bridge across the Ahuriri River valley, which was flooded
when Lake Benmore was raised. Photo supplied.
It didn't help the family's case that the pastoral lease
was up for renewal, he said.
The family was given land from Otematata Station as
compensation but the writing was on the wall - Peak Valley
could no longer be used as a viable part of the operation.
It left his grandfather, Duncan, war-weary.
''It knocked him around.''
When Mr Anderson's grandfather died, his father, Ken (KJ),
and mother, Susie, who had farmed Peak Valley, and the family
- Liz, Jen and himself - moved to Bog Roy.
KJ was a farmer first and foremost but ''all roads lead to
politics'' and he was driven to advocate for his rural
community, Mr Anderson said.
Rabbits were still the scourge of high country farmers.
''People did walk off their land.
''It's rabbit country - sweet, dry country.
''The trade-off is it is good stock-health country but it
means good rabbits as well.''
The massive task of eradication drew KJ on to the local pest
board, then the amalgamated pest boards, which he chaired,
and subsequently to the national council.
Under the rabbit boards numbers were brought to manageable
levels, but when a change in structure was proposed KJ had
serious fears the rabbits would come back, he said.
''He fought to keep it the same because `the same' was
''He was worried charges would skyrocket and he was staunch;
every dollar possible should be spent on killing rabbits, not
In the end it took the illegal introduction of the
rabbit-killing virus RHD in 1997 before farmers were able to
get on top of the problem.
''We were spending about $50,000 a year on pest control and
now it is down to about $10,000.''
In 1989, officials, once again in change-management mode,
this time to reorganise local government, redrew the map.
Bog Roy (along with most of the Waitaki Valley) was netted
for Canterbury from Otago - KJ was one of five ratepayers who
tried unsuccessfully to get the decision reversed.
Joining the new Environment Canterbury (ECan) region was to
determine how the process for the renewal of its water rights
Mr Anderson went into partnership with his parents in 1997.
In 2005 the couple married and took over Bog Roy to farm in
their own right.
However, another government initiative was to disrupt their
The same year the Labour government proposed to review and
revalue Crown pastoral lease rents to take into account
landscape amenity values.
In other words, it wanted to up Bog Roy's rent to $56,000
annually because of its lakeside location, Mr Anderson said.
The irony was possibly lost on the pen-pushers.
''It's a commercial dam.''
As well, the tenure review process, where land is taken from
the leases for the conservation estate and swapped for
freehold land, was well under way throughout the high
''You turn around and they smack you again.''
The process was divisive and harsh words were traded.
Mrs Anderson remembers attending a gathering of farmers on
the night of the 2008 general election, as it became clear
National would win, and seeing grown men become quite
emotional with relief and hope the Labour policies would be
brought to a halt.
The Andersons are happy with the outcome of tenure review but
looking back the process left them feeling ''really
squeezed'' and as if they had tried to ''swindle the
country'', she said.
This, the lengthy negotiations around farm succession and the
renewal of water rights, plus a drought, brought the couple
''quite a lot of pain'' for a while, Mr Anderson said.
They reached out for help and got advice from older farmers,
scientists and advisers, and they credit this with seeing
''If I was on my own it would sink me.''
''It's hard not to take things personally, not to feel a
failure somehow,'' Mr Anderson said.
The ''casualty'' of farm succession can be families who
''tear each other apart''.
A high capital value might appear on a balance sheet and
understandably everybody wants their fair share, but ''you
only get that if you sell it''.
Farms no longer automatically passed to the eldest son and it
was possible to put in alternative structures, suited to
individual families, to manage farm succession, he said.
These matters were now under their belt but the renewal of
Bog Roy's water rights looked set to continue into the
future, ''bleeding money'' as it went.
It was unlucky that when the time came to renew their water
rights it coincided with the bid from new applicants to get
water to set up large-scale dairy farming in the Mackenzie
and Ohau Basins, he said.
After protracted negotiations an agreement to renew was made
in 2010, but it has yet to be signed off, four years and
''That's one of the biggest challenges.''
At one point during dealings Mr and Mrs Anderson were the
only two in the room who were not lawyers and having to
negotiate with ''trained professionals''.
It has made them determined to see their children
well-equipped and educated for this new farming future bound
in red tape ''so they can represent themselves'', Mr Anderson
''You can be the best stockman, not too loose with the books,
put in the hard graft - you can have the best stock in the
world and turn around and be told you can't have stock in the
''[It's about] putting your case forward. If that's not your
thing, if you're not au fait with it, it can really cost
you,'' Mr Anderson said.