When the result of a ballot to determine ownership of the newly created Mt Dasher run was announced, it was a popular outcome.

The successful applicant among the returned servicemen was Robert (Roy) Mitchell, an accountant in Wright Stephenson and Co's Oamaru branch whose left arm was amputated during World War 1.

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"He was heartily congratulated when the result of the ballot was declared,'' the Otago Daily Times reported in 1919.


Mt Dasher, just over 30km inland from Oamaru, came into being as a run in its own right when it was cut off the property known as The Dasher.

Both properties were then put up for ballot as two separate blocks for soldiers - 98 applications were received.

For run 571 - Mt Dasher - consisting of 17,628 acres (7133ha), there were 96 applicants, while The Dasher, at 15,380 acres (6224ha), attracted 89 applicants, and Robert (Bob) Gray, of Richmond, North Otago, was successful.

Neighbouring farmer, the late Ted Ruddenklau, who penned a brief history of Mt Dasher in 2011, said the early development of the property would have been a daunting task to most - and more so in Mitchell's case because of his physical impediment.

Mitchell landed with the Australian Infantry Force in Gallipoli on April 25, 1915. A week later, a gunshot wound required his left arm to be amputated, after which he was sent home.

Memorial plaques on the entrance gate posts to Mt Dasher were dedicated to his two brothers - Douglas Orr Mitchell and William Lyle Mitchell - who were both killed in Belgium during WW1.

Ruddenklau recalled Roy Mitchell as a tireless worker who expected the same of anyone he employed.

"While he was known as a tough boss, the fact that he pulled his weight and more, earned him the respect of his employees,'' he wrote.


Ruddenklau said the run required a "tremendous'' amount of work to make it operable. In the early years, it was fenced into five blocks, three behind Scout Hill and the homestead, plus paddocks around the homestead.

Three huts were erected as well as a woolshed and a substantial set of yards at Scout Hill. Added to that were many miles of boundary and division fences.

The back boundary was more than 20 miles away and all materials for the likes of fences and huts had to be transported by packhorse, which would have been a major task.

Mitchell and his wife Nell moved to Oamaru to live and day-to-day management of the property was left to staff.

Mitchell later decided to take Bill Kingan - the son of his good friends and neighbours Jim and Grace Kingan - into partnership but Mr Kingan was killed during World War 2.

After the war, his brother Ian Kingan was offered the partnership, which he accepted. That was dissolved in 1953 and Mitchell then took family acquaintance Tony Langley into partnership which lasted until the following year when the decision was made to sell.


The property was passed in at auction and later sold to John Wardell, of Omarama. It was farmed by the Wardell family until being bought by the Sim family in 1993.

John Wardell's son Peter - the Winter Olympics chef de mission in Vancouver in 2010, Sochi in 2014 and PyeongChang last year and whose heptathlete daughter Rebecca represented New Zealand at the Beijing Olympics in 2008 - grew up on the property.

After completing an agricultural science degree at Lincoln College in 1973 and spending a year working for the Tussock Grasslands and Mountain Lands Institute, he returned to Mt Dasher and farmed for 15 years.

In 1980, Straight Furrow reported more than 500 people attended the South Island High Country Field day at Mt Dasher.

When the Wardell family first took over the property, there were 1300 sheep, the lamb drop was about 70 per cent and wool weights averaged 3.4kg. There were no beef cattle, but they were introduced by the Wardells.

John Wardell explained how the development of the land by oversowing, top-dressing and subdivision had gone hand-in-hand with the improvement of stock performances and increase in stock numbers. By 1967, the property was carrying nearly 2000 ewes.


Peter Wardell later headed to Hungary to establish some sheep and beef demonstration farms for Pyne Gould Guinness and then spent several years working for Monsanto and trading commodities.

Returning to New Zealand in the early 1990s, he settled in Christchurch and became a sharebroker, and the property was sold.

Wayne and Joy Sim left South Otago to move to Mt Dasher with their sons Conrad - who now farms the property with his wife Tania - and Ashley, who is working in Australia.

Wayne Sim had worked for the South Otago Freezing Company as a fat lamb drafter, while Conrad had spent eight years as a butcher on the chain at Finegand.

The Sims sold their 364ha farm to move to North Otago and Conrad acknowledged it was a big decision.

Conrad Sim heads out mustering on Mt Dasher Station, which is celebrating 100 years since its ownership was determined by ballot. From left: Wayne Sim is now retired but still enjoys going to Mt Dasher to help out; tailing time on the property; Mt Dasher is home to both beef cattle and sheep. Photos: Supplied/Montage: Mat Patchett
Conrad Sim heads out mustering on Mt Dasher Station, which is celebrating 100 years since its ownership was determined by ballot. From left: Wayne Sim is now retired but still enjoys going to Mt Dasher to help out; tailing time on the property; Mt Dasher is home to both beef cattle and sheep. Photos: Supplied/Montage: Mat Patchett

His father had always wanted a larger property and, with the dairy boom in play, they were fortunate enough to be able to make the trade.


It was the scope and size of Mt Dasher that was appealing, along with the stock it was running, Conrad said.

Their first year on the property was a "pretty big learning curve'' but they were fortunate to have the support and advice of their neighbours.

It was a far cry from South Otago where they could ride around the farm on a motorbike with a couple of heading dogs; at Mt Dasher, the terrain and altitude meant mustering was all on foot.

Another drawcard had been the good infrastructure, although they spent a lot of time fencing - replacing three-wires with permanent fencing.

The Sims now run about 7500 Perendale ewes, several thousand hoggets, and about 300 Hereford-Angus-cross cows, plus replacements.

Stock manager Rowan Murcott has worked at Mt Dasher for 10 years, while students are employed over the summer.


Wayne and Joy Sim are now retired at Weston, on the outskirts of Oamaru, but Mr Sim is always available to drive a tractor or truck if needed.

Conrad and Tania have three children - Kendal (21), a nurse trainee in Invercargill, Mackenzie (19), who is in her second year studying at Lincoln University, and Morgan (17), who is in year 13 at John McGlashan College and intends heading to Lincoln next year.

Farming was not easy; one of the property's challenges was its altitudes and the seasons were very changeable. Farmers were also being hit with many challenges, Conrad said.

But it was also a good time for sheep and beef farmers, with good returns for beef and lamb, despite crossbred wool being "absolutely shocking''.

Mt Dasher - and North Otago - was a good place to live and work. They were lucky they had good neighbours and it remained a traditional farming area. It was also a central location, he said.

When it came to marking a century since the ballot was held, the Sim family wanted to mark the milestone because the property had a lot of history and many people had worked there over the time.


Whether that was shearers or casual musterers, young people helping out at tailing time or hunters, they all would have stories to tell, and anyone with an involvement with the property was welcome to attend.

Peter Wardell, who now lives at Lake Hawea, is returning for the event on Saturday, November 2.

The plan is to meet at the woolshed at 1pm for those who want to drive out to see the Dunrobin water scheme intake at Mitchells Hut. Then it will be back to the woolshed from 4pm onwards for refreshments and a catch-up.

• If you wish to attend, contact Conrad and Tania Sim on (03) 432-4034.