Kiwi scientist sells up to fund malaria battle

By Abby Gillies

Norrie and John Pearce are selling their farm at South Head near Helensville.  Photo / Dean Purcell
Norrie and John Pearce are selling their farm at South Head near Helensville. Photo / Dean Purcell

A veteran researcher says she's selling her multimillion-dollar organic farm so that she can continue her work on breakthrough anti-malarial treatment.

Auckland University researcher Norrie Pearce has dedicated much of her life to helping others and for many years has researched Third World diseases.

The 69-year-old is in the early stages of producing a new anti-malarial medicine which could cause fewer side-effects than existing drugs.

However, Dr Pearce and her husband, John, are selling their 173.7ha property northwest of Auckland, because of an ongoing battle for grants and government funding.

Malaria is spread by mosquitoes in more than 100 countries in Central and South America, Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It is estimated to kill more than a million people a year.

"There aren't that many anti-malarial drugs out there and what are out there often have bad side-effects," she said.

"If the Earth is warming as they say it is, the malaria mosquitoes will start encroaching on the developed world and it's going to become rife. It's not necessarily a long time away."

Dr Pearce is one of only a handful of people working on anti-malarial medicine in New Zealand. Her findings are close to being tested.

The $180,000 she needs annually to continue her research comes largely from research grants and government funding, but such payouts are increasingly hard to secure.

"Unfortunately, New Zealand is quite small and there's not a heck of a lot of money around for research funding."

As well as using proceeds to fund her work, the sale of Shelly Beach Farm will allow Dr Pearce to spend more time with her husband.

Situated on the Kaipara Harbour, it is marketed as the country's first organic farm and includes 3km of coast and a private beach. Animals that come with the property include dairy and beef, cattle, emu and geese.

The property also has vines and a dung beetle breeding operation valued at several million dollars.

The beetles, which cost $1 each, bury dung dropped by animals, reducing greenhouse gases and environmental impact.

The multi-title property is being marketed by Bayleys. Two titles have a combined government valuation of $3.25 million, with further titles yet to be valued. Bayleys agent Karen Asquith said the government valuation was "not a guideline of current market value - it is light".

Dr Pearce has always had an interest in science and helping others.

She and her husband started the sustainable farm 33 years ago and university masters students live and work there as part of their studies.

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