Kees Zeestraten has spent close to $3 million trying to get
water to irrigate Ohau Downs.
He admitted he was ''gutted'' it had cost so much to get to
that point - and still not have water.
Meanwhile, the flats of the 5200ha Omarama property, where he
intended to do his irrigation development, were, as North
Otago Federated Farmers high country chairman Simon
Williamson said, ''pretty depleted'', with hieracium taking
over and tussocks struggling to survive.
''In general, you would not say it's in great health. It's
certainly not knee-high tussocks waving in the wind,'' Mr
Mr Zeestraten, who has dairy farms in Southland, bought Ohau
Downs in 2004.
His original intention was to irrigate on the flat, with
water through the Mackenzie Irrigation Co, and make seven
farms, each milking 1000 cows.
But after going through hearings and appeals, he was now down
to three sites, each milking 1400 cows, in indoor operations.
Gross turnover was estimated in the vicinity of $20 million.
He had incurred costs of close to $3 million through that
process. The mediation process in the past 18 months had cost
about $500,000. It appeared Ohau Downs might have a mediated
solution with 80% of the appeal parties, he said.
In 2012, Mr Zeestraten purchased neighbouring property Glen
Eyrie Downs, after the company which owned it went into
Southdown Holdings, of which Mt Maunganui businessman Richard
Peacocke was a director, had proposed establishing six dairy
farms, running up to 7000 cows on the property.
The company pulled out of the process, because of what it was
going to cost in the next three to five years, and the
property was put on the market.
It made ''complete sense'' to add it on to Ohau Downs,
allowing Mr Zeestraten more flexibility with his plans, he
The total spent on Glen Eyrie Downs, by the previous owners,
including the purchase price, was more than $11 million.
About $2.2 million had been spent on clearing wilding pines
on the property.
Clearly frustrated about the situation, Mr Zeestraten said he
had ''given it everything to try and make it work for
everybody''. To still not be seeing light at the end of the
tunnel was ''pretty gutwrenching''.
He saw what could be done to hold up the process as ''nearly
as blackmail''. Those opposed to his development did not want
to see any dairy cows in the area, he said.
Asked what their concerns were, Mr Zeestraten said, ''You can
think of anything, anything you like.''
''I get the feeling it doesn't matter what you do, it's never
enough. That is the feeling that I'm getting though the
process,'' he said.
Mr Zeestraten was also running merino ewes ''very
holistically'' and growing feed for grazing dairy cattle.
There had not been any grazing pressure put on the flats, he