Drone image of a banner placed by protesters near Simons Pass Station.
In the heart of Mackenzie Country, the road from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki curves through Simons Pass, over the remnants of an ancient glacial moraine – a low ridge of rocks carried by a glacier during a previous ice age. It’s here that most visitors to the Mackenzie catch their first glimpse of Aoraki/Mount Cook, gleaming white beyond the tawny tussock landscape and the turquoise waters of the lake.
Dairy farmer Kees Zeestraten was trying to sell his Mackenzie Basin farm to an English super fund for $20m, but was blocked by the Overseas Investment Office. He doen’t think he will be able to sell it now it has M. Bovis infected cattle.
There’s a curious anomaly in the set up at Simons Pass station. When it begins operation this spring it will be one of the most modern farms in the country – energy efficient, hi-tech. The tractors will be driverless electric ones, the cows will come in to the robotic milkers whenever they feel like it. The fences will be virtual – GPS-controlled collars the animals wear will ensure they stay within allocated boundaries.
Around six billion of us on this planet get our food from fossil fuels. We’re basically eating oil,” says Dr Mike Joy, Senior Lecturer in Ecology and Environmental Science at Massey University. “Converting fossil fuel into nitrogen fertiliser is what feeds most of the population on this planet. It has allowed this massive population boom and it’s coming to an end.”
…Whether its through water regulations or the land tenure review which sells public land to farmers, the government needs to act. Even Federated Farmers has said this latest incursion into the Mackenzie is “not ideal”.
A tiny district council in the South island may be all that is standing in the way of an industrial dairy development in the unique and fragile Mackenzie Basin.
Land Information Minister Eugenie Sage refuses to rule out reining in the Commissioner of Crown Lands after an irrigation pipeline for a massive dairy conversion was carved across public conservation land.