Farming entrepreneur Colin Harvey has put his 6,639-hectare Lake McKay Station, one of the largest freehold high country stations in Wanaka, up for sale with tentative work on a residential subdivision among the potential revenue streams.

The 9,000 stock unit sheep and cattle station is expected to sell "well in excess" of its rating valuation of $19 million to $20 million, said Sotheby's International Realty sales associate Matt Finnigan. It was too early to say what value housing development would add to the property, although the vendor currently has submissions with the Queenstown Lakes District Council and had "done a lot of work with consultants", particularly for land near the township of Luggate, which is about 15 kilometres from Wanaka township.

Auckland-based Harvey is a veteran of the farming industry, having grown up on Taranaki dairy farms, but his contribution to New Zealand agriculture includes founding Ancare, the animal health company sold to Merial, the global animal health business recently acquired by Boehringer Ingelheim International from Sanofi SA. Harvey later sold the remaining Ancare R&D assets he retained to Merial.

Finnigan said in putting Lake McKay up for sale, Harvey "is now Auckland-centric" and mindful of grandchildren in the North Island, although the decision came about after an approach by the realtor. Harvey and wife Mary bought the farm eight years ago and had since invested $2 million in an irrigation system, while also buying 135 ha more land adjacent to the Clutha River.

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Luggate is seen as a natural satellite town for Wanaka and even for Queenstown, where strong economic growth has boosted demand for workers but squeezed them out of the immediate housing zones. Wanaka-based Willowbridge Developments is selling sections in its Luggate Park development, which it described as "a lifestyle choice and a very affordable option".

"Given demand for housing in the district, it is likely an area where it would certainly be acceptable," Finnigan said. The district plan was currently under review so there were a lot of uncertainties but the idea was "not just a notion" although it was "too soon to put any definite value on that part of the property".

There was likely to be strong offshore interest in the property and from ex-pat Kiwis, and the vendor was braced for an Overseas Investment Office requirement.

Harvey's other interests include the Hobbiton theme set, the Taranaki pesticide company Zelam, Country TV Ltd , Canterbury Fresh Lamb and the Wool Unity Group, along with a number of property and investment companies.