Matamata farm hosts youth trainees
Buildings on the Matamata farm are used by Search and Rescue trainees and Scout troops. Photo / Supplied
A working dairy farm, encompassing buildings serving as New Zealand’s first search and rescue youth training centre, and doubling as regional Scout camp, is for sale near Matamata.
“The property sits at the base of the Kaimai Mountain Range, which separates the Bay of Plenty from the Waikato,” says agent Neville Jacques who is marketing the 262ha farm for auction on November 9 through Bayleys Hamilton.
Jacques says the farm milks 186 cows in a relatively new two-year-old rotary shed and produced 55,262kgs of milk solids in the 2015/2016 season. Additional farm infrastructure includes a four-bedroom homestead, a two-bedroom cottage, four-bay workshop and machinery storage shed, a walk-through cow shed now used for storage, two calf rearing sheds, and an open-air fertiliser storage bunker. Grazing paddocks are gravity-irrigated by multiple bush streams coming out of the Kaimai Ranges.
He says that within the farm, where the grassed paddocks meet the edge of the mountains, are three main outbuildings making up the youth training camp compound. These contain bunk/dormitory styled bedrooms, a central classroom, shower and toilet facilities, and a partially-covered gas-powered cooking and kitchen amenity.
“The structures were originally working men’s huts used by engineers on the nearby Kaimai rail tunnel in the 1970s, and were transported onto the site by members of the scouting fraternity,” Jacques says. “Combined, the bunk rooms and compound can accommodate up to 30 people at any one time.”
Following an upgrade of the premises to bring them back up to a habitable state with the installation of insulation and off-the-grid sources, Youth Search and Rescue took over responsibility for the site in 2009. Since then, 325 high school students have attended Youth Search and Rescue training camps on the property.
“The buildings and camp are operated and managed by the Youth Search and Rescue organisation – the first training facility of its type to be set up in New Zealand – which acts as a recruitment conduit for the full Search and Rescue body nationwide,” Jacques says.
The charity uses the facility some 12 to 15 weekends a year, while both the Hamilton and the Matamata Scout troops each have access to twice annually.
Jacques says the groups use the compound thanks to a 43-year ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the farm’s original owner, David McNeil, and more recently his son Peter, who took over the dairying operation before passing away earlier this year.
Youth Search and Rescue general manager Steve Campbell hopes a new owner of the farm at 3596 State Highway 29 near Matamata will look at the camp enclave from the same philanthropic point of view, and will let the youth organisations continue to have access rights under current agreements.
“The site has an incredible community legacy to it, both in the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato, and it would be fantastic for new owners to continue that legacy,” Campbell says.
Jacques said the campground infrastructure and tracks leading up into the Kaimai Ranges have minimal impact on the farm’s day-to-day operations.
“In fact, they open up an opportunity for additional revenue streams off the back of the core farming business. Commercial development of the camp facilities could be pursued along the lines of adventure tourism, or employed as rustic farm-stay accommodation,” he says.
“Being close to the Kaimais, with its populations of wild deer and boar, the accommodation could also be commercially let as a hunting lodge.
“The facilities are already professionally run through a centralised booking system administered by Search and Rescue, so additional farm guests could dove-tail in with that system to avoid a cross-over in occupancy,” Jacques says.