Mike Barham, founder of the Farming Forever NZ syndicate, fears the iconic Mangaohane resort will be planted with pine trees when sold. File photo / Duncan Brown
A syndicate unites to try to save the Mangaohane station from the loss of the pines.
The 4,840-hectare landmark property manages 40,000 units of stock northeast of Taihape and is being offered for sale through an international tender, which closes next month.
The syndicate, Farming Forever NZ, is trying to fund the nearly $40million prize, asking potential investors to step in to try and stop Mangaohane Station from being bought by overseas buyers and planted in pine trees for credits carbon or forestry.
Mike Barham, the man behind the union, said he preferred to stay on the sidelines, but could no longer remain silent.
“Somebody has to take a stand and do this,” Barham told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.
“I’m an avid farmer and I just can’t stand to see these iconic and special farms getting into the trees.”
Barham said tree planting is a big part of Kiwi farming but shouldn’t come at the expense of prime farmland.
“We will never get these farms back and I beg the arborists to leave these farms alone – they have plenty of other land they can plant.
“Let’s try to keep that in farming forever because our history is based around these big high country resorts in the North Island.
Barham hoped his cause would go beyond Mangaohane Station and alert the public to the rural community’s growing concern over the loss of farmland to forestry or carbon farming.
“If we do it right and get the right media out there will be a lot of talk around our problem which may well lead to permanent change with what is creating the problem…
“It’s not just one farm, it’s [about] create a change [in the] a policy that allows what happens – so that the farms are planted in carbon and the door is closed to them forever.
Mangaohane Station is owned by the same family that recently sold another iconic property, Huiarua Train Stationto foreign companies for forest reconversion.
Barham feared that the tough outlook for New Zealand’s mutton and beef industry meant that this trend was on the rise.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many farms for sale.”
Despite this, he was keen to dissuade people from pursuing a career in agriculture.
“I just want to be careful not to discourage people from getting into farming, it’s a fantastic industry.”
He was also aware of offering a return to investors, especially given the high price of Mangaohane Station.
“We have a strong financial and practical farming team behind it all. We plan to increase it to around 3% cash return on an annual basis.
Barham said the property also offered “non-tangible aspects”, including the opportunity to be involved with “one of New Zealand’s finest iconic farms”.
It wasn’t just for farmers either.
“I love the idea of integrating non-farmers into an agricultural asset. I’ve seen people on my dairy farms come down [from] out of town and they love getting involved – it’s not all about financial return…
“We’re not always grumpy old farmers who worry about the weather, are we? It’s a special situation we find ourselves in, and it’s just not an ordinary farm.
“I don’t want to be seen as someone selling this to anyone – I want to give them the opportunity to be a part of it.”
To learn more about Mangaohane Station’s crowdfunding effort, email [email protected]