Molesworth is open
Molesworth Station has become another top of the south holiday destination with the access road for 2012-13 summer visitors opening yesterday.
Billed as New Zealand's largest farm and administered by the Department of Conservation, Molesworth has some extra visitor attractions: interpretation panels along the Acheron Rd and a new east-west walking route.
Shelters positioned on 10 sites along the Acheron and Tophouse roads have been decorated with information panels providing facts and interesting stories about the station's farming history, its rare and varied plants and animals and its current management.
A new east-west route links the Kahutara River in Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia (Clarence) Conservation Park with the Sedgemere Lakes Area in the Molesworth Recreation Reserve. Only trampers with a high degree of off-track experience and fitness are advised to tackle the unmarked route and five to six days should be allowed to cover the distance. No permit is required.
The Acheron Rd through the 180,787 hectare station first opened to the public during the 1987-88 summer for six weeks. That period has extended over the years and this summer the road will remain open for more than 14 weeks, closing at 7pm on Easter Monday, April 8 - road and fire-risk conditions permitting.
DOC opens the road so New Zealanders can experience for themselves the Crown-owned, high country station. Since July 2005, it has been administered by DOC as a recreation reserve but it also remains a cattle farm, administered by Landcorp Farming Limited
DOC South Marlborough area manager Dave Hayes said more than 85,000 people, travelling in more than 40,000 vehicles, have travelled the Acheron Rd during the summer months since it opened in 1987-88.
He describes it is an accessible and secure way for many people to experience a remote and extreme environment.
"The Acheron Rd goes through a vast, awe-inspiring landscape of towering mountains and river valleys. The station is steeped in history, in its farming evolution and as a Maori and early European travel route," he says.
Two historic cob buildings can be visited by travellers, the Acheron Accommodation House and the Molesworth Cob Cottage.
Travellers need to be aware bad weather can close the road at short notice. Dave advises anyone planning to travel the route to ensure it is open by phoning the DOC South Marlborough Area Office, ph 03 572 9100 or visiting any DOC centre in the region.
If made as a day trip, the journey through Molesworth takes about six hours between Blenheim and Hanmer, although there are several walking tracks that can reward motorists who get out of their vehicles with panoramic views.
Camping overnight is another option, with suitable sites near the Molesworth Cob Cottage and Acheron Accommodation House.
Motorists making a round trip through Rainbow Station to St Arnaud need a 4WD vehicle. That route is a toll road, open from December 26 until April 1.
Feedback calls for recreation in station
A desire for greater recreational access dominated submissions from around the country on the future of Molesworth - New Zealand's largest working high country station, located in southern Marlborough.
In total, 64 submissions were received by the Department of Conservation for the draft management plan for Molesworth Station, which covers 180,787 hectares. It is owned by DOC and leased by Landcorp.
Its land combines farming and public access, either open or with a permit, for activities such as hunting, fishing, cycling and travelling.
DOC South Marlborough area manager David Hayes said the draft plan had attracted a range of submitters including individuals who had a particular connection to the reserve, recreational fishing, hunting and gaming associations and the Marlborough District Council.
The majority of submitters had put forward views about the reserve's access for recreational use, he said.
"A lot of the submissions are about recreational access, making comments about their desire for more access," Mr Hayes said.
A date for the hearing had yet to be confirmed, but was likely to be early February, he said.
The hearing panel will be made up of members of the Molesworth steering committee and the Nelson Marlborough Conservation Board.
It is expected that the final plan, which guides the management of Molesworth until 2020, will be released before July next year.
● Fire danger forced the Acheron Rd to remain closed for three summers: 1998-99, 2001-02 and 2003-04. However, in 2004 the road did open at Easter for eight days.
● The Acheron Rd is open between 7am and 7pm daily during its open period. Only roads open to the public can be driven. Since the station became a recreation reserve there has been no fee to travel the road.
● Visitors to Molesworth Station must comply with a Molesworth Care Code to protect the farm and the area's significant plant life. Care is particularly needed in dry summer conditions to prevent fires. Open fires are not allowed and portable cookers should be used for cooking.
● The area is ecologically important with more than 70 threatened native plant species, including some distinctive to the South Marlborough drylands.
● The East West Route and Leatham Molesworth Route is suitable for people with a high level of back country experience including navigation and map reading skills. Most of these routes are unmarked and follow natural features such as streams, rivers and ridges. You will need to carry and know how to use a topographic map. The relevant 1:50,000 Topo50 maps are: BS25 Severn, BS26 Mount Muller, BT25 Mount Northhampton, BT26 Mount Clear, BS27 Tapuae-o-Uenuku, BT27 Kaikoura.
More information is available at: doc.govt.nz/molesworthroutes
The Marlborough Express