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'Doing the right thing': Mike Mee says he couldn't have contemplated developing his land by Queenstown's southern corridor

By PHILIP CHANDLER

In a remarkable gesture, a farming family’s ensured valuable landscape between Queenstown’s Deer Park Heights and the Remarkables mountain range will be protected from development.

In a deal just concluded, Kawarau Falls Station owners Bridget and Mike Mee have placed a QEII National Trust covenant on 170 hectares of their 800ha farm straddling the Whakatipu Basin’s southern entrance.

‘‘I wanted to ensure the property, highly visible from many Queenstown locations, is protected in perpetuity and will remain as open space for future generations,’’ Mike says.

The move comes a year after Jillian and Dick Jardine announced they’re gifting 900ha of  their adjacent, covenanted Remarkables Station to QEII, from next year.

Protected: The Mees land adjoins Remarkables Station, of which 900ha will be given to the QEII National Trust from next year

While the Mees are holding on to their covenanted land, it’s equally protected.

QEII chair Bruce Wills says: ‘‘Combined with the Remarkables Station, the preservation
of open space in an area under increasing pressure from development is something the Mees feel very passionately about.

‘‘This covenant will ensure the spectacular backdrop and views are protected for the
people of Queenstown and visitors to enjoy in the future.’’

‘It’s about doing the right thing’

Mike believes it’s unfortunate Queenstown’s eastern corridor, Ladies Mile, has been lost to development, and is also unhappy the council allowed the Coneburn special housing area south of the Mees’ property.

While much of the property he and Bridget have covenanted is hilly land north of The Remarkables skifield access road, around to Windy Point, which probably couldn’t have been developed, about 50ha of flat land, either side of State Highway 6, may have been ripe for development.

Mike says it was even earmarked ‘high-density residential’ in the council’s spatial plan.

Coneburn’s developers are proposing about 600 housing units on their 48ha site, he notes.

While it might seem the Mees are missing out, Mike says that wasn’t in their thinking.

It’s about ‘‘doing the right thing’’, he maintains.

Covenanted: The red-shaded land has been covenanted by the Mees

Mike says he was partly inspired by London’s major parks when he worked over there.

‘‘I presume those pieces of land were owned by private interests, and they allowed those pieces of land to stay green.

‘‘That’s really important having large areas of green space in your town.’’

Mike says he plans to continue farming deer and cattle on the covenanted land — ‘‘that’s a silty loam which is as good a producing land as you can get’’.

‘‘If we wanted to put hazelnuts in, if deer farming became unviable, or something, we can still do horticulture.’’

However, he says the covenant excludes dairying — ‘‘we can’t do dairy or dairy grazing because that’s a mess’’.

Bridget and Mike’s farm also includes stunning Deer Park Heights.

‘‘I want to leave that to the family to decide what they want to do, but most of it’s ONL [outstanding natural landscape], so you can’t do anything anyway.’’

Meanwhile, QEII regional representative Rob Wardle comments: ‘‘When Mike approached me with the idea, I was astounded at the generosity of the gesture and acutely aware of its significance for the long term and future settlement in the Whakatipu Basin.’’

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