'History, rugged beauty': Iconic high-country station up for sale

The 13,177ha property that is up for grabs in Central Otago. The owners, Tom and Jan Pinckney,...
The 13,177ha property that is up for grabs in Central Otago. The owners, Tom and Jan Pinckney, have spent some 30 years tending to the land. Photo: Supplied
In the old days before fences there were boundary riders and Northburn Station, a high-country station in Central Otago, still has an original hut they lived in.

“You had a fellow out there with his horse and dogs who made sure the sheep didn’t go into the neighbour’s place,” says owner Tom Pinckney, who has put the station on the market for sale after 30 years of living, farming and growing grapes there with wife Jan.

The iconic station, which overlooks Lake Dunstan and the small town of Cromwell, is on the market with a price indication of $30m to $35m.

Pinckney says the boundary rider’s hut looks pretty much as it would have in the late 1800s.

“You go into it and other than - there has been a possum in there - other than that it looks like the fellow walked out of it yesterday, just the old bedding and the old pot on the wall, pots and pans on the wall.”

There are miner’s huts on the property, too, from the gold rush days.

Pinckney says the Department of Conservation owns an area within the station called the Quartz Reef Tailings, which centralotagonz.com says has a Chinese stone hut and gold mining tailings.

The site describes the relic of the gold mining days as virtually unmodified since it was abandoned: “In 1865 there were at least 40 miners here but little is known of their success or otherwise.”

Pinckney says there were other tailings that were part of the station, which were sold to Cloudy Bay about six or eight years ago, that were so rich in gold they were known as the “Jeweler’s Shop”.

He came to Northburn Station as a 27-year-old and says it’s time to give someone else an opportunity, saying there are still opportunities aplenty on the station, including wool production, subdivision, tourism and viticulture, and there are already vineyards established.

The boundary rider's hut is a treasure from the property's past and testament to how farming used...
The boundary rider's hut is a treasure from the property's past and testament to how farming used to be done in New Zealand. Photo: Supplied
When the Clyde Dam was planned and under construction, temperature data was recorded to identify where various crops could grow, Pinckney says, and Northburn suited high quality and regularly ripening pinot noir grapes.

The Northburn Wine Company was set up with 23 hectares of mainly pinot noir planted and in 2016 the vineyard was sold to Cloudy Bay, which is owned by the French luxury brand multinational Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy (LVMH), which Pinckney says is a vote of confidence in the quality of the wine produced in the area.

“There's now 60 odd, 70 hectares of vines on the land which we subdivided and sold to other people and there's more of that potential,” he says.

The tourism potential includes a canyon swing, which has resource consent and which he believes will be the highest in the southern hemisphere, which is in the planning and funding stages.

Pinckney describes the venture, which is owned by an outside interest but on the station, as a pod that will be suspended over a canyon.

“Think of a big swing and there’s a bungee jump associated with it as well.”

He adds that the station also hosts an annual ultra-marathon race, the Northburn 100, “where suffering is the prize and everyone’s a winner”. First run in 2011, the race now brings hundreds of people onto the station every year in March, Pinckney says.

He says Central Otago is a special place with a rugged beauty and the station has a great feeling of history to go with that beauty.

The property is being marketed by agents Mike Direen and Trevor Norman of PGG Wrightson Real Estate in Cromwell.

Direen says iconic high country stations like Northburn - which he says has awe-inspiring views of the Remarkables, Mount Earnslaw, Lake Hawea and Aoraki-Mount Cook - rarely come on the market and when they do there is quite a demand.

The land comes with a modest three-bedroom cottage. Photo: Supplied
The land comes with a modest three-bedroom cottage. Photo: Supplied
"They are way ahead of just traditional sheep and beef values because there's so much more going on,” he says.

The station has a mix of lease and freehold totalling 13,177 hectares and runs Merino sheep and cattle, and with its size and natural resources has “immense” development potential.

The marketing says: “Whether you envision an exclusive retreat, an eco-friendly resort or a luxurious private estate, the possibilities are limited only by your imagination.

Direen says in the days since the listing went live there have been many enquiries, mostly from Kiwis in New Zealand but also from wealthy expats - “people looking for a real bolt hole, really, to land bank and they know it's always going to go up in value.”

 - By Catherine Masters, OneRoof


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