Hunter Valley manager hits back at critics

Access to the Hawea Conservation Park is at the heart of the issue surrounding the sale of the...
Access to the Hawea Conservation Park is at the heart of the issue surrounding the sale of the land. Photo: DOC / John Robinson
The manager of Hunter Valley Station, Digby Cochrane, has hit back at claims access to his land is made deliberately difficult, and says anyone is welcome to visit, provided they "meet all the criteria".

Mr Cochrane told Morning Report on RNZ today anyone was welcome to ring the station, but he would only give them permission to drive through the station if they had a four-wheel drive with a snorkel, and a legitimate reason for going, such as tramping, fishing or simply a picnic.

Mr Cochrane came onto the show to tell his side of the story, a day after Federated Mountain Clubs president Peter Wilson said access had been made "deliberately difficult" and Mr Cochrane was very selective over who got access.

Those reports were "one-sided", Mr Cochrane said.

"Providing they’ve got a good 4WD, the rivers aren’t high, we aren’t doing stock movement at the time, then it’s good as gold. We’ve run a successful tourism business for 40 years up the valley and never had any complaints."

Mr Cochrane said the proposal from the Walking Access Commission for an easement to allow vehicle access through the station was a "grey area".

"We already give access. Who’s going to manage this access? At the moment we have to rescue people who go up the valley, we’ve done it for years."

"If you just open it up to the public then who’s going to manage it and who’s going to go rescue them when they get stuck? We’ve always maintained that we allow access in the valley but we manage it so we know who’s coming in, who’s going out."

People did not understand the condition of the road, he said, which made access to the Hawea Conservation Park "almost impossible".

"I don’t think people understand quite what the road is like. It’s got river crossings, it’s narrow."

"From our homestead it takes 4 hours to drive [to the conservation park], you have to cross probably 10 rivers to get there, you have to cross the Hunter River four times."

"It’s almost impossible to drive to the Hawea Conservation Park unless you really know what you’re doing."

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