One of Queenstown’s wealthiest landowners is pleading poverty and patience over his farm’s cattle caught in the Kawarau River.
Frankton Flats developer Alastair Porter, the face of company Remarkables Park, bought Kawarau River Station with brothers John and Neville in July 2014 for a touch over $8 million.
The 1826-hectare station runs for 14km along the Kawarau River and Mountain Scene has snapped cattle wandering freely in the river.
Otago Fish & Game’s environmental officer Peter Wilson says bathing bovines aren’t prohibited by regional water rules but Porter has an obligation to do better.
“We’d certainly encourage the landowner, Mr Porter, to take steps to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
Porter tells Mountain Scene he inherited a badly run-down farm and none of the property’s fences kept stock in.
He says the owners don’t want stock in waterways and it has cut cattle numbers from 220 to 50.
“We’ve only owned the station for a relatively short period of time and we are doing our best to get it back into shape, and part of that is getting more fencing on it.”
Fences are being ripped out of Remarkables Park and installed on a four-kilometre stretch of the station.
Porter says if cattle are found in the river, farm managers push them back up the hill, where they roam the station to graze.
“Part of the problem for stations, and we’re no exception, is that farming’s not an economic use.”
The Porters have plans for tourism activities and visitor accommodation on the station - if Queenstown’s council allows it under planning rules.
Stock in waterways made national headlines in January after it was discovered cattle snapped wading in a Canterbury lake were from a high country farm owned by Chief Justice Dame Sian Elias and her husband Hugh Fletcher.
Otago rules prohibit cattle from “pugging” or causing erosion and slumping damage to riversides.
Otago Regional Council environmental monitoring boss Scott MacLean confirms he’s spoken with Porter but says he can’t comment on his cattle in particular.
“It is a permitted activity for stock to access rivers.”