More trees, less pasture, more tourism and the addition of "ultimate" sheep are planned for the Retaruke Valley's Blue Duck Station, owner Dan Steele says.
The remote 1460ha station was blitzed by heavy overnight rain on March 7-8. It caused an estimated $300,000-worth of damage and loss. The station's rain gauge recorded 230mm that night.
"There could have been more in some places, out the back of the station where the damage was more significant," Steele said.
The rain severely affected four neighbouring landowners, and a corner of Whanganui National Park.
Station staff and 120 visitors woke to a fine morning and a road closed by slips and damaged bridges. The visitors had to be ferried out by helicopter on March 9.
On the farm tracks and fences were bowled and undercut by slips. There were slips on the pasture, slips on regenerating native bush, slips on plantation forestry and slips in virgin native bush - bigger ones.
"Everything came down. It took down huge faces of bush, with hundreds of trees. Some of them are still moving."
The station traps predators to make the streams safe for endangered whio (blue ducks). Many traps were lost and damaged.
The farm and tourist lodge had insurance, but not for storms, fences and culverts, and not for disruption to its income stream. The main costs will be repairing tracks and fences, loss of tourism income and loss of future farm production.
The damage has been depressing at times, but Steele is undaunted.
"It's just part of life in the bush and something that you can't control. We are still determined to make a good sustainable life here. It doesn't make us love the place any the less."
Temporary fencing has been done with light posts and netting, but some stock are still uncontained. Long-term fencing and track work will have to wait until the ground dries out. In the meantime farm access is problematic.
It took a month for the road to Whakahoro and the station to be fully re-opened by Ruapehu District Council and contractors.
Predator traps will be repaired in a spring working bee, and more will be needed.
Blue duck habitat - clear streams with insect larvae - was "torn to pieces" by the rain. Steele hopes nature will repair itself and the valley's tiny population can survive.
"We have found one blue duck up in the pasture. It was pretty hungry and pretty sick," he said.
The station first responded to the deluge by destocking a bit, and losing some staff. Longer term there will be changes to business systems as well.
Steele plans to increase tourism as an earner.
He's also going to let more land revert to native bush, and revert faster. He may put some into the Emissions Trading System, and get payment for carbon the trees store.
He's also looking to change his thousands of breeding ewes to the "ultimate sheep" breed, partnering with Allan Richardson and Avalon Genetics. This sheep has short belly and tail wool, a short bare tail, and resistance to intestinal worms, lice and fly strike.
"There's no docking, dagging or dipping, and less mustering. It's a very humane type of sheep."
The flock will still need shearing, but less often.
"We still believe wool is a great fabric. Personally, for myself and children, we prefer wool products over any synthetic thing."
For the station's hundreds of cattle, he may aim for a smaller animal.
Ultimately he'd like to have high-value, niche and branded products to sell, rather than the standard commodities.