Philanthropic work and cadet farm training will continue at Otiwhiti Station after its sale went unconditional a fortnight ago.

The sale was almost an in-house deal with the Duncan family retaining an interest alongside new co-owners Land Based Training and a Hunterville businessman.

The property, nestled in the strong Rangitikei hills 16km northwest of Hunterville, has been home to the Duncan family since the early 1880s and is steeped in history. Since 2007 it has also enjoyed a successful partnership with Whanganui private training enterprise Land Based Training committed to training young people for hill country employment in the Hunterville and Taihape district.

For the past five years the Otiwhiti Land Based Training School has leased Westoe, the Howard family farm further down the Rangitikei River, where farm cadets have also learned their trade. That is set to continue as a training ground under the new syndication.

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Otiwhiti Station in the Hunterville hills has sold to syndicate committed to training young people and continuing philanthropic work.
Otiwhiti Station in the Hunterville hills has sold to syndicate committed to training young people and continuing philanthropic work.

In fact, 47 applications were received for the placements in 2020 and the interviews have been completed with 16 successful applicants selected and enrolled for the coming year.

Since its inception more than 200 students have graduated from the school and 100 per cent of them are gainfully employed.

The property was owned by the Sir Thomas and Lady Duncan Trust in 2006 when it was bought by great-grandson Charlie Duncan and his family.

Today the station comprises 1679ha of strong hill country and was offered with a 10ha executive lifestyle block.

"We will be staying put under the new arrangement," Charlie Duncan said.

The Turakina Valley farm 16km from Hunterville, was once part of a 16,160ha station established in 1881 and subdivided in 1909 making two farms, the other named Otairi Station farmed by Sir Thomas' brother William.

Charlie Duncan said the two brothers played pool (8 ball) to see which farm each ended up with.

"Sir Thomas ended up with Otiwhiti."

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Sir Thomas and Lady Duncan provided locals with much needed jobs breaking in the property in the Great Depression of the 30s.

Once broken, the land and its production were soon to touch the lives of many more in need.

So affected by the plight of a neighbour's young son, a victim of the 1948 polio epidemic, the Duncans established a charitable trust, with proceeds from the farm used to assist young people with polio.

Through the Otiwhiti Farm Trust, the Duncans established a hospital specialising in neuro muscular disorders in Wellington which subsequently contributed to the development of life saving, leading edge treatments including the Sister Kenny method of intensive neuro muscular physiotherapy. It later moved to Durie Hill in Whanganui where it carried on the philanthropic work as the Duncan Hospital, which has since closed.

Advances in modern medicine have eliminated polio in young people, but the trust maintained an association with youth development charities.

"Otiwhiti Station is still committed to training young people for hill country employment in the Hunterville/Taihape district and will still have a philanthropic role that Otiwhiti has always had in its history," Charlie Duncan said.

"On-going training will continue at Westoe [finishing farm on the Rangitikei River] meeting the Howard family agricultural training objectives of maintaining support for the community in training and employment of the required staff for the hill country in the surrounding districts. The sale was a good outcome for the community which voiced its support and desire for the continuance of the farm training school."
The deal was brokered by Property Brokers.

"Obviously Property Brokers is delighted to have played its part in assisting the negotiation of this outcome and the station itself has a reinvigorated opportunity to meet the future needs of the district," Property Brokers' general manager rural Conrad Wilkshire said.