Right at the bottom of the Rangitīkei catchment, Ferryview Farm borders a wetland and takes on extra water when the river is in flood.

It's 380ha and was the original farm owned by race driver Chris Amon's family. In Amon's time it probably had dry stock as well as dairy cows, manager Alistair Robertson said.

Amon sold the farm to Bill Jamieson, who developed it for dairy and put in an 80-bail rotary milking shed.

Then the farm was one of 16 in the North Island bought by the Crafar family, who at one stage owned 18 dairy farms and 20,000 cows. They expanded rapidly and faced many prosecutions, with one regulator labelling them "the poster boys for dirty dairying".


In 2009 they went into receivership and after a long process and lots of debate the Overseas Investment Office approved the sale of their 16 North Island dairy farms to Chinese owners.

They are the Theland Farm Group, part of Milk New Zealand Holding Ltd and the larger Dakang New Zealand Farm Group Ltd.

Ferryview Farm now has a herd of 1040 calving cows, mainly Friesian, and supplies milk to Fonterra. There are six staff, in houses and single quarters.

The farm is essentially run for profit, Robertson said, and the owners were looking to grow their asset.

He has a five-year plan for the place, and likes a challenge.

The land has dry, sandy patches and is 70 per cent irrigated. But the main challenge is during high rainfall, when extra water is drawn off the Rangitīkei River and into Amon's Drain.

There is already some plantain in the pasture, and Robertson can confirm it doesn't like the wet.