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Protecting our precious places

Cockayne Plots, Northburn Station

High Country farmers recognised by Sir Brian Lochore for their commitment to protecting our natural heritage

Sir Brian Lochore Photo: Tim Hawkins

On 19 November, Sir Brian Lochore, Chairperson of QEII National Trust, recognised over fifty High Country landowners who protect natural features with QEII covenants for their commitment to preserving our unique heritage for future generations to enjoy.








In the early 1920s, Dr Leonard Cockayne, one of New Zealand’s foremost plant research scientists, set up a number of fenced experimental plots on Northburn Station in the Dunstan Mountains near Cromwell.

Tom Pinckney, who now owns Northburn Station, protected ten of the historic Cockayne Plots in 2001 with a QEII open space covenant totalling 1.3 hectares.

Dr Cockayne was appointed by the Department of Agriculture in 1918 to undertake an economic investigation of montane tussock-grassland.

In 2001, Dr Brian Molloy, QEII High Country Regional Representative, compiled Dr Cockayne’s reports from 1918-1922 into a publication.

Much of what Dr Cockayne wrote is as relevant today as it was nearly ninety years ago.

Perhaps his most enduring legacy was his demonstration on the Northburn Station plots, which range in altitude from 250 to 800 metres, that depleted semi-arid land could be revegetated productively with pasture species and trees, provided certain initiatives were taken.

Along with QEII representatives from throughout the South Island, Department of Conservation staff and others involved with the Trust, the covenantors were invited to Northburn Station for lunch with the QEII Board and a tour of the Cockayne Plots.

QEII gathering in woolshed on Northburn Station Photo: Tim Hawkins

Above: At a gathering in the woolshed on Northburn Station, Sir Brian Lochore, QEII Trust Chairperson, and Tom Pinckney, owner of the station, explained the protection of the historic Cockayne Plots to QEII covenantors and others involved with the Trust.

Northburn Station is a 12,000ha high country station running 10,000 merinos and 100 cattle over three properties: 8,500ha freehold; 2,200ha leased from Contact Energy; and the balance under the Leaning Rock pastoral lease.

Tom and Jan Pinckney have diversified from traditional grazing by integrating farming with conservation, and developing both a 23ha vineyard producing pinot noir and a function centre.

'Covenantors in Central Otago, Waitaki, Queenstown-Lakes and Mackenzie now protect over 13,000 hectares with 42 covenants,' said Sir Brian.

'A key to the success of the Trust in protecting natural features on private land is that we work in a true partnership with the landowner.

'QEII covenants are voluntary but once in place they protect these special areas forever.

'Private property rights are not jeopardised by a covenant as the landowner retains ownership of the land and continues to control access.

'I am amazed at the generosity of those who care about the future of our country and can never thank our covenantors enough.'

QEII gathering in woolshed on Northburn Station Photo: Loralee Hyde

Above: QEII covenantors were treated to a country lunch prepared by Jan Pinckney including sausages made with lamb off Northburn Station.

Tom Pinckney recounted the history of Northburn Station and the location of the Cockayne Plots.

The original fences constructed from 1919-1921 around the plots remain to this day although one or two were opened in the 1930s. As part of the QEII covenanting process, each plot was surveyed and then enclosed with a new rabbit-proof fence.

'Areas in the High Country protected by landowners with QEII covenants include tussock grasslands, herbfields, salt pans, forests and geological landscapes,' said Brian Molloy

'It’s my personal pleasure to work with the covenantors who are protecting our dryland habitats.'

This gathering of the Trust family is to celebrate both the work of our covenantors and Dr Cockayne who spent all of his life working with plants.'

Sir Brian Lochore and Brian Molloy Photo: Tim Hawkins

Above: Former All Blacks, Sir Brian Lochore (1963-1971) and Dr Brian Molloy (1957), reminisced about the differences between a forward and a halfback.

A party of inspection at Cockayne's Plot 12 in 1922 Photo: W D Reid

Above: A party of inspection at Cockayne’s Plot 12 at 800m on Northburn Station on 2 November 1922. Dr Cockayne is at the extreme right. The white patches on the depleted slopes in the background are scabweed Raoulia australis.

QEII Board at Cockayne's Plot 12 2008 Photo: Tim Hawkins

Above: Eighty-six years later on 19 November 2008: Tom Pinckney, owner of Northburn Station; Sir Brian Lochore, QEII Chairperson; Yvonne Sharp, QEII Director; James Hunter, QEII Director; Jo Ritchie, QEII Director; Margaret McKee, QEII Chief Executive; Bernard Card QEII Director; Edward Ellison, QEII Director; and Brian Molloy, QEII High Country Regional Representative. And Willy, the fox terrier.

With recovery of the vegetation due to fewer rabbits, scabweed no longer covers the slopes.

Cockayne's Plot 12 Photo: Tim Hawkins

Above: The Cockayne Plots have high historical, cultural and scientific value. Protected by rabbit-proof fencing, the montane tussock-grassland vegetation is flourishing, as seen here in Plot 12.

New rabbit-proof fence around Cockayne's Plot 12 Photo: Loralee Hyde

Above: The new rabbit-proof fences protecting the Cockayne Plots were constructed with contributions from QEII and the landowner. Landcorp Farming also contributed to the covenanting process.

Brian Patrick with Neill and Barbara Simpson Photo: Tim Hawkins

Above: Brian Patrick examines an unnamed and undescribed tussock with Neill and Barbara Simpson.

Dr Brian Molloy Photo: Tim Hawkins

Left: Dr Brian Molloy with the compiled reports of Dr Cockayne, published as An Economic Investigation of the Montane Tussock-Grassland of New Zealand (1918-1922).

'The last plant survey on the Cockayne Plots was done in 1995,' said Dr Molloy.

'It would be useful to mount another survey and publish the results.'

For a copy of the publication, contact QEII Trust on 04 472 6626, email QEII Trust or write to PO Box 3341, Wellington 6140. Payment of $5 per copy is required to cover packaging and posting.


QEII staff and regional representatives Photo: Tim Hawkins

Above: QEII staff and regional representatives: Brian Molloy, High Country; Sir Brian Lochore, Chairperson; Margaret McKee, Chief Executive; Miles Giller, North Canterbury; Mark Sutton, Waiau Catchment; Kerri Lukis, Technical Officer; Rob Campbell, Coastal Otago; Gay Munro, Southland; Loralee Hyde, Editor Open Space; Karlene Hill, Technical Officer; Mike Copeland, West Coast; Philip Lissaman, Nelson-Tasman; Rob Smith, South Canterbury; Alistair Webb, Technical Officer; and John Bishop, Manager Legal Services.

Published 17 December 2008

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