Mt Aspiring Station: keeping it all in the family

Mt Aspiring Station farmers John and Sue Aspinall (at left) and their son Randall and his wife...
Mt Aspiring Station farmers John and Sue Aspinall (at left) and their son Randall and his wife Allison, in the homestead garden yesterday. Photo by Marjorie Cook.
The fourth generation of Aspinalls has taken possession of Mt Aspiring Station homestead in a move the family says is "huge" but satisfying.

Randall Aspinall (29) is the son of John and Sue Aspinall, who have run the remote high country farm since 1977.

Randall has worked in Invercargill for many years as a farm consultant for PGG Wrightson.

His wife, Allison (32), a director of Prohealth Physio in Invercargill, has secured part-time work at Central Lakes Physio in Wanaka.

They admitted yesterday to some apprehension about their lifestyle changes but are thrilled the business is staying in the family.

"From my point of view, it [returning] was going to happen. It was inevitable," Randall said.

"I was quite apprehensive about it but now I am here and I am really enjoying it," Allison said.

Randall Aspinall was educated at home, through the Correspondence School and by his mother, before going to board at Otago Boys' High School in 1994.

He studied agricultural science at Lincoln University before becoming a farm consultant.

Invercargill-raised Allison studied physiotherapy at Otago University and has worked in her profession for 10 years.

Mt Aspiring Station is 50km from Wanaka, next to the Mt Aspiring National Park.

The park was created in 1964, following an earlier decision by Randall's grandparents, Jerry and Phyllis, to surrender 20,235ha to the Crown.

The hospitality extended by first-generation farmers Jack and Amy Aspinall to climbers and trampers has been continued by following generations, making the family name synonymous with high country access issues.

Thousands of tourists pass the gates every year and the Government's Walking Access Commission is one of many organisations to which John devotes his time.

John (58) has not retired and, when not doing committee work, commutes daily to the farm from his new home in Wanaka.

He will share a joint management decision-making role with his son.

"I'm too young to stop work. And, with three of us, I can go and do some repair jobs and little projects I've been thinking of for years," John said.

Sue (57) was raised on a farm and trained to be a teacher in Christchurch.

She had mixed feelings about moving out after 33 years of living, working and raising her family on Mt Aspiring Station, she said.

"It is huge. But it is good because it's succession. If we had to sell it, it would be different ...

"Because it is succession, you've got to be positive and you've got to move on," she said.

She will continue her work for the Upper Clutha Agricultural and Pastoral Society and is enjoying closer contacts with the Wanaka community.

John and Sue also have two daughters - Katie, a pharmacist in Ireland, and Rachal, an accountant in Christchurch.

Randall's sisters were committed to the family succession plan and he and Sue aimed to be fair to all three, John said.

Randall's farming goals are to continue farming in an economic and environmentally sustainable manner and to take time to understand the farm.

He agreed with his father's principle of "doing the basics well, at the right time".

"Certainly, that's something you notice down south, too.

"If you try and get too flash or complicated, you will confuse everyone," Randall said.


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