By DAVID HILL
The 2016 earthquake was just another challenge in the 100-year history of Woodchester Station, near Waiau.
Recent droughts, the 2016 earthquake and now the Covid-19 lockdown are yet more chapters in the farm’s colourful history, Rebekah Kelly says.
Her family has been farming at Woodchester Station, off Leader Rd and nestled between Waiau and Parnassus, since her great-grandfather Linton Gardiner bought the farm more than 100 years ago.
“On the property there’s a bit of heritage. They went through snows, droughts and financial crises and survived, and we can do it too.
“Each generation uses the knowledge of the previous generations and what’s new, so they can pass the farm on to the next generation in as good a condition as we can. And we produce some food and fibre while we’re at it.”
Rebekah and her husband David run the 2000-hectare property, running 3500 breeding ewes, with half-breed Merino/Romney sheep running on the steeper country and Romney-Texel-cross ewes on the rolling hills.
They also run 500 Angus-Hereford-cross cows.
About 250 beehives are on the farm to produce manuka honey, in partnership with a local beekeeper.
There are two QE2 covenants on the farm, including a 37-hectare triangle of beech forest and a two-hectare block of manuka, bordering a neighbour’s QE2 covenant.
The couple have four children, James, aged 15, Lucas, 13, Isaac, 10, and Victoria, 8.
As with previous generations, the children are home-schooled until they are old enough to go to boarding school, due to the farm’s isolation.
“It’s a great lifestyle, whether it’s doing stock work, out on the tractor, mustering with ponies or going for a hunt, there’s lots to do.”
And then there’s the lake that formed after the earthquakes, when a landslip dammed the river, creating a lake wide enough and long enough for a water-ski lane.
“It warms up enough in the summer to go for a dip and it’s flat enough on the lake’s edge to pitch a tent.”
Rebekah says the earthquake created “a whole bunch of chaos and work,” but they are coming out the other end, having dealt with lots of land movement, fencing damage and water tanks destroyed.
The so-called “great wall of Waiau”, which caught the attention of University of Canterbury geologists, runs through Woodchester from Leader Rd to the new lake.
“Our water system tanks 30,000 litre tanks half like an apple and pipelines snapped in half.”
It took several months until new tanks and piping were installed, pumping water from a new source.
She says 90 percent of farm fences were damaged, but the farm is gradually being re-fenced and they hope to complete the work next autumn.
The Covid-19 lockdown has meant quake repairs to the house of her uncle, Linton Gardiner, have been put on hold.
Next autumn they hope to begin work to repair the wool shed and then their own house.
“And then we will go, last the earthquake is over’,” Rebekah says, optimistically, until the next challenge.
The Kellys have taken over the running of the farm from Rebekah’s parents, Jonathan and Sarah Gardiner, who have retired to Hanmer Springs, and Linton Gardiner.
Rebekah holds a recreation management degree from Lincoln University and worked in events management in the North Island, while David played first-class cricket for Central Districts and Northern Districts as an opening batsman during the late 1990s and early 2000s.