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‘Huge relief'

Sale of Mangaheia hailed as confidence boost for farming.

The sale of Mangaheia Station near Tolaga Bay to McNeil Farming from the East Coast and the DW Briant Farming family of Gisborne has been described as “a great tonic” for pastoral farming in the region.

It comes at a time when the sale of good pastoral farming land to forestry has become an increasing concern for many in this region, and around New Zealand.

Interest in the sale came from both farming and forestry interests.

But Annette Couper, whose family has owned the station since her husband bought it in 1977, chose to sell to ​​the McNeil-Briant partnership to keep the station in primary production and operating as a single unit.

Forestry had its place, Mrs Couper told Radio New Zealand, but not on Mangaheia.

She said it had been an enormous decision to sell the station , “and not an easy one”.

“To me it's just a beautiful property.”

None of her daughters are farmers, and selling the station was “purely succession”.

The McNeil and Briant families say they are looking forward to their new venture and believe that it will strongly complement their current businesses.

“We are really excited about forming a partnership with the McNeil family,” Peter Briant said. “It is an added bonus to get the opportunity to share in the ownership of one of our district's iconic farms.”

Mangaheia Station was put on the market in March 2020 for the first time in nearly 50 years.

In pre-sale promotion material, Bayleys Real Estate said the 2720ha property offered a combination of excellent farm management, significant investment back into the farm and a favourable balance of contour and climate resulting in a prime breeding and fattening unit.

A focus on annual cropping and re-sowing of hundreds of hectares of cultivated land meant substantial areas of new pasture had been replanted annually as high yielding perennials for finishing, enhanced by multiple varieties of winter and summer crops sown for cattle and lambs.

The station has around 22,600 stock units including capital stock of 800 Angus cows and 10,500 ewes.

It rates among the top 10 percent of farms in the district. Bayleys described it as a “world-class” property.

Brothers Tennant and Burne McNeil have complimented the current Mangaheia manager Leo Edginton and his predecessor Howard Ingles.

“They, together with the foresight of the late Tommy Couper, have done a wonderful job of developing Mangaheia.”

More recently, Mrs Couper had been instrumental in taking the presentation of the property “to the exceptional level that it is today”.

Tenders for the property closed in mid-June, and the sale was confirmed two weeks ago.

One of the region's prominent farmers has described the sale to pastoral farming and cropping interests as a “great tonic” for the region.

Another said it was a “real confidence boost” for farming, and a “huge relief” that the outstanding property would remain a farm, as opposed to becoming a forest.

Rere farmer and Gisborne District councillor Kerry Worsnop told Radio NZ the news brought an “immense sense of relief, and probably a dose of gratitude towards the vendor”.

She said there was definitely a high degree of apprehension in the community about forestry interests buying the property.

Possession date is July 24.

Bayleys Gisborne real estate agent Simon Bousfield, who sold the farm on behalf of Mrs Couper, said a property like Mangaheia only came on the market about once every 10 years.

He had seen a big lift in forestry buying activity in the past two years — and that kind of money could be difficult to turn down, he said.

Grateful: Mangaheia Station near Tolaga Bay has sold to family businesses McNeil Farming and DW Briant farming. Picture by Kerry Fox