Two attempts to keep the historic Westoe homestead in the Howard family have failed and the 1874 Rangitikei farm house is now for sale by tender.

The large house was built by Sir William Fox, who was New Zealand's Premier four times. James Howard bought it in 1885 and it has stayed in the Howard family since.

In this generation, Jim and Diana Howard's four children have other plans. The couple stopped living in the house or working the 480ha farm some years ago. Other relatives have tried to keep house and garden going, but attempts to keep it in the family haven't worked.

"The time has come when we had to bite the bullet and bring someone else in who can look after the old property, because we have run out of the energy to do it," Mr Howard said.

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The property is in two titles. Harcourts Manawatu agent Jacqui Campion is marketing the 410sq m house and 12ha gardens and grazing land.

The house is "a fine example of a Victorian country house" according to Heritage New Zealand. It has at least six bedrooms and is in need of refurbishment.

The homestead is a Category 1 listed historic place and has a "garden of significance" with a lawn tennis court and 600-year-old tōtara trees.

"We can date when some of the trees were planted, right to the day, because Sir William Fox had a diary that they found."

The Howard family have been avid gardeners, and Mr Howard hopes the new owner will continue that tradition.

"The garden is of more concern to me than the house. We have to get the right person, with the motivation and enough madness to develop it as is needs to be developed."

Tenders for the property close on March 5, and Ms Campion said there has been huge interest, including from overseas. It could be the base for a brilliant bed and breakfast business.

"A lot of people love these heritage homes and relish the opportunity to completely refurbish them to their own taste."

There is an open home there from noon to 1.30pm on February 11.

Heritage New Zealand adviser Alison Dangerfield has asked interested buyers to contact her. She wants the new owners to be comfortable, and they will not be able to change the style of the house.

The Westoe farm is another matter. In 2014 Mr Howard half-gave it to Lincoln University, for use as a sheep and beef training property. Until that could be established the farm was leased to Duncan Land Ltd, and students from Charlie Duncan's Otiwhiti Station training school worked there most days.

That has worked well, and the lease runs until September this year.

Lincoln is no longer able to offer training at that level, and the Lincoln-Westoe Trust is being dissolved. The trust's assets and liabilities have to go to an organisation with the same aim - providing sheep and beef training in the Rangitikei District.

"That's what we are working on, with every likelihood of success," Mr Howard said.