Waitangirua Farm

August 2007
Waitangirua Farm is contained within Belmont Regional Park, which is a significant area of open space adjoining the two major urban centres of Lower Hutt and Porirua cities.

The farms total area is 1,243 ha. Theres an additional 1044 ha (some only rough grazing) owned by Hutt City Council, Greater Wellington Regional Council & Dept of Conservation. Current stocking comprises: 7800 ewes to lamb, 3300 ewe hoggets, 300 cows to calve, 70 yearlings, 95 weaners, 14,000 stock units.

In March 2003, during a meeting between Greater Wellington Regional Council and Landcorp Farming, Landcorp indicated that it was considering closing its operation on Waitangirua farm. Landcorp had run the farm, along with neighbouring Whareroa, since 1987, picking them up from the Lands and Survey.

Landcorp chief executive Chris Kelly said Landcorp would look to sell a farm when its location or the value of the land outweighed its ongoing use as a farm. He said that was the situation with Waitangirua.

In preparation, the land was offered to the Office of Treaty Settlements. This offer is part of Landcorps statutory requirement to offer any land it intends to dispose of. Treaty Settlements indicated that the land wasnt required and that Landcorp could proceed.

It was mooted that Landcorp intended to sell the farm on the open market, opening up the possibility of large tracks of the property being a prime target for housing development.

When publicly interested groups got wind of a proposed sale there was a petition and a certain amount of lobbying to get someone to buy the land for the wider community. Something like 11,000 signatures were added to a petition in favour of community ownership.

In August 2005 the Govt indicated that it would buy more than three quarters of Waitangirua (1098 ha) for $6.27m. It would chip in $ 3.1m and the balance would be split between Greater Wellington Regional Council and the Porirua City Council.

The sale went through last year and now the farm is leased back by Landcorp for five years, at a rent that reflects that the company is now in more of a caretaker role. The 5 year lease began from 1 July 2006, and Landcorp have the right to renew.

Wayne Harrison runs the farm along with two shepherds and has been on the property for 25 years or so.

Public access is a major hassle for farmers, especially around crucial times like lambing. There are recreational corridors on the farm and an estimated 11,000 people use these annually. Waynes also had to deal with numerous dogs worrying sheep on the property. On top of that this is a difficult property to run, the terrain isnt great and it is exposed

Jason Barclay is the new park ranger for Belmont. He took over from Chris Wootton in 2006. Since the land was purchased from Landcorp, Greater Wellington Regional Council and the other new owners have started looking at a long-term plan for the property, not just next few years but much further out.

There are sustainable land management issues, the continued public access, along with the desire to maintain a viable farm. Doing the latter involves a range of issues, including infrastructure management and fertiliser requirements. Jason also says questions will need to be asked in the near future about what are the on going costs of running the farm and who should shoulder those costs in the long term.

There is also talk of a wind farm on the site with the accompanying issues of landscape values and impact of recreational use, plus of course, the impact of a windfarm on the farm itself.

This is one of many community groups interested in the catchment, of which Waitangirua is part. The community group is interested in making sure the landowner looks at integrated catchment management issues.

The remaining land has been largely retired from farming with some areas already restored and replanted by the community group Friends of Maara Roa. It provides a unique environmental, recreational and open space asset for the community.