Dairy farmers rushing to snap up hill stations

The East Coast's pastoral farm sector has received a cash injection from the booming dairy sector as wealthy farmers snap up hill country stations to use as dairy runoffs.

Farmers say East Coast properties are being retained as diversified operations, carrying a mix of dairy grazers, beef cattle and sheep.

Some areas of flat land that had been bought cheaply and planted in radiata pine are now being sold to dairy farmers, who are paying to have the trees torn out, says a real estate agent. One big surge of real estate deals began when Makarika Station sold to Frits Oosten and Susan Percy, former independent livestock brokers from Rotorua.

"We should have moved here 20 years ago," Ms Percy said.

"We came just for a day's drive to have a look at the property. We never thought we would buy it. But everything fell into place and we just love it here."

They have subdivided the station's big paddocks, erected electric fences and installed water to take on a big business in grazing dairy drystock.

Ms Percy said some former clients and ex-dairy farmers among their visitors were also being attracted to the area and had leased Hore Hore Station, while living in one of the houses on Makarika Station.

They run beef and sheep.

The Makarika Station partners also urged the new owners of Puketoro Station, big dairy farmers Allan and Frank Crafar of Reporoa, and Allan's wife Beth, to buy it after inspecting it on their behalf.

Also sold to dairy farmers were Ngatara and Mt Florida Stations, and another unnamed property on the front country. Waipaoa Station, under new owner Frank Pullen, is also being grazed by dairy cattle.

Farmers in the area said stations were increasingly being snapped up by dairy farmers who want to graze their own dry dairy stock rather than have to pay big sums to other farmers to graze them.

This trend had introduced new players in the market to the point where purchases of sheep and beef country for forestry were no longer so dominant.

The rise in prices failed to save a large tract of land on the Bushy Knoll Rd from going to forestry, with a loss of 40,000 stock units.

But among other recent sales where the land - and jobs - of livestock farming were expected to be lost to forestry, Kairoa Station was sold to partners who are farming it on, Takrouna and Glentui Stations were sold to local farmers, and Pouti Station remains in farming.

Bayley Realty Group's rural sales manager, James MacPherson, said the trend signified a second pioneering era for the East Coast. Dairy grazers were the best advertisement the coast could wish for.

- NZPA

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