Man of the high country known for oratory and 'definite set of values'

22:22, Jul 19 2010

The former runholder of Mt Cook Station, who will be farewelled today, was the patron of the Mackenzie Rugby Club.

Donald Burnett, who died on Thursday, managed Mt Cook Station for 69 years. He was 95.

Every year, Mr Burnett would present the Mt Cook Cup, which was contested between the Pleasant Point and Mackenzie Rugby Clubs.

Mackenzie supporter Jeremy Sutherland said Mr Burnett was a commanding speaker.

"Donald's speeches were legendary, he was a very strong orator. I remember after one match, which had been played in the snow, he gave this long address about fortitude. He was not a big guy, but when he spoke, everyone seemed to listen."

Mr Sutherland said Mr Burnett's involvement went back to the Pukaki sub-union days.


"He had a very definite set of values; he seemed to believe that if young men weren't fighting for their country then they should be playing football."

He expected representatives from the club would attend Mr Burnett's funeral at St David's Memorial Church in Cave today.

Also present will be the principal of St Andrew's College, Christchurch, Roland Burrows. The Burnett Valley Trust, established by Donald's father Thomas David Burnett, owns several farms at Cave which provide income for the college.

Trust manager Ross Bisset said Mt Cook Station would continue to be run by the trust at this stage. Mr Bisset manages the Burnett family's 909ha down country property in Cave, which is farmed by the College.

He said although neither Donald nor Tom Burnett were former students of the school, both appreciated the school's strong Presbyterian values, and that the school had an agricultural course.

About 100 St Andrew's College students come each year to the down country property as part of the practical element of their agricultural course.

Mr Bisset described Mr Burnett as a "very well-read, very private individual".

St Andrew's College general manager David Evans said the school had been very grateful beneficiaries of the Burnett Valley Trust.

"Thanks to them offering the farm, our students have been able to get genuine hands-on experience in agricultural management."

The Timaru Herald