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Station loses runholder after 69 years

BY KATARINA FILIPE
Last updated 05:00 19/07/2010

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After almost 69 years of controlling Mt Cook Station, runholder Donald Burnett has died. He was 95.

He died at Timaru Hospital on Thursday, after being admitted a fortnight ago.

His sister, Catriona Baker, told The Timaru Herald yesterday that Mr Burnett had been working until an accident on July 4, when he slipped on ice and broke his hip.

"He had lost a lot of weight ... It was too much to conquer all at once," she said.

"My brother was a very private person and he worked very hard. He was 26 when he took over controlling Mt Cook Station from our father."

Mrs Baker said their father, TD Burnett, took over the station in 1903, also when he was 26.

"Donald was very interested in engineering and all that went with it. He put in a hydro electric plant in 1953.

"He always promoted the merino sheep and also the environment. He believed in no burning."

Mr Burnett never married or had children but the station would carry on because a trustee would manage it, Mrs Baker said.

Duncan Mackenzie, who farmed next door to Mt Cook Station for 38 years, said Mr Burnett liked a peaceful, uninterrupted lifestyle.

"He was a perfectionist in what he did in all the buildings and fencing and power plants. He hosted quite a lot of days, like Farm Forestry days."

Mr Mackenzie said Mr Burnett had a lot of involvement with Merino New Zealand.

In February 2000, Mr Burnett was named as the world's leading merino woolgrower in an award from a leading Italian industrialist.

Mr Burnett was presented with the inaugural World Challenge Trophy by Dr Pier Luigi Loro Piana, whose Italian textile company paid $120,000 for a 100 kilogram bale of 13.1 micron diameter merino fleece. The wool set a world record for the fineness of wool in a full bale.

In March 1998, Mr Burnett and Mrs Baker followed in their father's footsteps by setting up a charitable trust called the DMC and CMB Burnett Charitable Trust.

Their father set up the Burnett Valley Trust with his sisters.

The trust owns several farms at Cave and provides income for St Andrew's College, Christchurch.

Mr Burnett was also involved with the 1967 proposal to build the Pioneer Rd sheepdog statue.

He was one of three people in the Mackenzie branch of Federated Farmers who oversaw the project, leading to the statue being unveiled in March 1968.

When the statue's protection came under review in May 1997, Mr Burnett said the statue represented "the soul and essence of the high country".

A service for Mr Burnett will be held in St David's Memorial Church, Burnett Valley, Cave tomorrow at 1.30pm, followed by a private cremation.

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- The Timaru Herald

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