Updated: Jan 31, 2019
Each month we feature one of our ZQ growers, to showcase their incredible craft, unique properties and the passionate families behind the quality ZQ fibre. This month's focus is on Lake Heron station.
Located in the heart of New Zealand’s South Island, Lake Heron Station is found nestled amongst towering pines at the end of the Hakatere Heron Road. An easy two-hour drive west from Christchurch, it’s hard to comprehend it’s closer to the West Coast than the East, as you make your way up the valley, the powerful glacial mountain ranges enveloping you from both sides.
Covering 20,000 hectares, Lake Heron Station is owned and operated by Philip and Anne Todhunter, having been a part of Philip’s family for the last 100 years. They employ both a stock manager and head shepherd, along with a junior shepherd, and their children Maria (18), Alex (16) and Oscar (13) enjoy spending their holidays helping out in all aspects of farm life.
Philip’s great-grandfather, Robert Charlton Todhunter bought Lake Heron Station in 1917 and set up a merino stud in the Rakaia Gorge. His son, Joseph, Philip’s grandfather, farmed Lake Heron until 1945 when he moved to the Rakaia Gorge. That stud is now run by Philip’s brother Ben and father Bob, over the valley at Cleardale Station, and continues to supply Lake Heron with merino rams.
While they run 700 Angus cattle on the station, it’s the 11,500 merino that dominate the landscape. Of these, half are ewes with the rest made up of rams, wethers and next season’s young sheep. They produce approximately 65 tonnes of wool a year, ranging between 17-22 micron, with 20 being the average.
Having already supplied Icebreaker for the last 15 years, they are excited to be a part of the 10-year contract as they look ahead to the future. As with many high-country stations these days there is an opportunity to create a diverse rural-based business of adventure tourism alongside farming.
While the land is privately owned, they welcome people to explore their slice of paradise through a variety of experiences such as scenic flights, heliskiing and mountain biking, or the more recreational activities such as day walks, farm tours and fly-fishing. Philip, who has over 35 years of flying experience, first learnt in a fixed wing before shifting to helicopters. Surrounded by mountains and glaciers, he takes visitors on scenic flights over some of New Zealand’s most rugged alpine scenery in his Cessna 185.
There are five original accommodation options scattered over the property, two of which are rented out to adventure-minded visitors. The Lake Heron Cottage, which dates back to the 1900s, is located a stone’s throw from the main homestead. With an outdoor bath and a view of the woolshed, it’s easy to see why the comments left in the visitors’ book are that of only high praise. The ‘New Hut’ (built in 1923) is a further 30-minute 4WD trip up the valley, or for the lucky few, a quick ten-minute
flight with Philip. With 12 king-single beds, the hut can be booked year round. Popular with heli-skiiers in winter and trampers in summer, it’s also used as the base for the annual autumn muster.
There’s something about the vastness, the silence of nature and the sheer scale of the high country that fills your soul. And Lake Heron Station has all this and more. The opportunities available to experience this landscape in so many different ways, along with the incredible hospitality that Anne and Philip provide, makes the trip up the Hakatere Heron Road a must for everyone.