Lilydale Station, covering 4046ha of freehold land in the Canterbury High Country, has recently gone for sale.
The station offers minimal opportunities for farming with the majority of the property being more than 900 metres above sea level, making it unsuitable for grazing, but ideal for game hunting. As stated in the Stuff article, the station has an international reputation for game hunting, with tahr easy to find on the high tussock grasslands, along with red and fallow deer, chamois, pigs and wallaby. To recreational users, it is best known for hosting the Fox Peak skifield.
A poled tramping route follows the station boundary to Spurs Hut. Other than that, there is no public access to Lilydale Station, and signage along the boundary reminds visitors that entering the station for the purpose of mountaineering is prohibited.
In public hands, this piece of land would offer a variety of recreational opportunities: ski-touring in the backcountry of Fox Peak, mountaineering on some reasonably high yet easily accessible peaks, deer and tahr hunting, and tramping, with the potential for additional access routes to Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park.
So, what are the chances of improved public access as the result of the station changing ownership? Below are four possible scenarios:
a) Another overseas investor buys the property, and the OIO (Overseas Investment Office) imposes improved public access as a condition of sale.
b) A New Zealand investor buys the property. Any provisions for improved public access would depend entirely on the buyer’s goodwill. Given that the station is freehold, there is no legal obligation for a new owner to allow public access.
c) The New Zealand government steps in and purchases the station to the benefit of all New Zealanders. Given that Lilydale Station is enclosed by Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park to the East and West, a government purchase could result in the land being added to the conservation park.
d) New Zealanders chip in to purchase the station through a crowdfunding campaign. This is what Timaru conservationist and artist John Overton is trying to encourage. Overton announced that he hopes to launch a crowdfunding campaign to buy the land for $3.5m, if he can get support from groups such as Environment Canterbury, Department of Conservation, Ngai Tahu and Forest and Bird. Overton has established the Lilydale Station Trust, and launched a Givealittle campaign to buy Lilydale Station for New Zealand.
John Overton abandoned the crowdfunding campaign on 21 August 2018.