''You wouldn't get a better landscape. Green is as much a
part of it as the tawny brown landscape in the background. What
are they worrying about? It fits in.''
That was the comment of High Country Accord chairman Jonathan
Wallis, after viewing the result of irrigation development on
Tara Hills at Omarama.
The contrast between the green, irrigated flats of the
property and the surrounding brown hills was vivid.
The 3400ha station, best known as a research property, was
bought by Dave Ellis two years ago.
As he has dairy farm operations in the Rangitata and Waimate
areas and milks 1500 cows at Omarama, he needed support
ground for young stock and rising 2-year-old heifers.
Land around Canterbury was too expensive and he chose to
invest in the Omarama area.
Originally, there was 170ha with border-dyke irrigation and
the previous owners, the Patterson family, had put in two
He decided to take the border-dykes out, apply for consent to
extend the irrigation, and now had 600ha under pivot
On the flat, there were now 2000 rising 1-year-olds, and 1500
rising 2-year-old heifers, with 3000 merino sheep on the
He was drawn to the Omarama area after seeing what pioneering
dairy farmer Doug McIntyre was doing on his property, between
Omarama and Twizel.
Mr Ellis bought The Glens, a property near Omarama, with the
vision of converting it to dairy.
It took two years to do that and he estimated there was
between $5 million and $6 million in lost production during
The process could be very frustrating and he felt for fellow
farmer Kees Zeestraten, unsuccessful so far in his attempts
to irrigate his Omarama property, and what he was going
It was evident what could be achieved with water, while the
environment was also looked after and mitigation rules
applied. Having a ''big dust bowl'' did not make sense, Mr
Mr Ellis was involved in a water user group which has been
formed to look after water quality in the Omarama Scheme.
Tony Gloag, from Buscot Station Backpackers, said European
tourists asked what was stopping extending the ''area of
''They think it's wonderful. Sometimes I wonder just who are
we satisfying by these strict landscape standards,'' Mr Gloag