The Highlanders are here to stay after the franchise's ownership group secured a licence in perpetuity from New Zealand Rugby to operate in Otago and Southland.
The Highlanders have struggled in their history to become universally rated by the rugby community north of the border, with the call to cull — or at least relocate — the club gathering steam in the mid-to-late 2000s.
''This [licence] gives us certainty because in the past we always knew there was a terminating licence and there had been talk of it shifting at times,'' Highlanders chairman Doug Harvie said.
''But that will never happen now. It is cemented down here."
Doug revealed the biggest threat came in 2014.
''Four other franchises were licenced and we weren't," he explained. ''We tried to get a group of investors together and that got really, really hard.
''NZR, in their wisdom, looked at other options and one of those was to go to North Harbour.
''If we hadn't got this group of investors together then that was a real reality.''
The Highlanders investor group of Shane Drummond, Raymond Burke and Warren Goddard recently purchased the shares of former director Matt Davey. The trio own a 77% share between them.
NZR has sold its 10% stake, and Lion Nathan chief executive and NZR director Peter Kean
has bought a 10% share.
The balance, 13%, is held by the three provincial unions — Otago, Southland and North Otago— that make up the Highlanders region.
Kean, who lives in Cromwell, has close associations with rugby, having spent six years on the NZR board and also previously serving as its delegate to the Highlanders board.
Harvie said the Highlanders were delighted to welcome Kean to the ownership group and
"The combination of Peter's business acumen and deep understanding of our region, and the issues and opportunities within rugby, will be a significant asset to our club," he said.
The decision by NZR to relinquished its stake in the Highlanders was a vote of confidence
in the franchise.
''The only reason they kept a share is because they weren't sure how we would run it but they are pretty pleased with everything we've done.''