Along with wife Julia, the couple own Braemar Station on the eastern shore of Lake Pūkaki. Hamish was born at Braemar while Julia was brought up at the mouth of the Rakaia river. The couple moved back to Braemar in 2000 and farm here with their two children.
“For me the really special thing about the Mackenzie is the feeling of space and openness which is really great for your soul. You get that really peaceful feeling when you’re in wide open spaces, and a real feeling of place,” says Julia.
The family run sheep, cattle, deer, and “people” with self-contained tourist accommodation a sideline business started by Hamish’s mother Carol. The Basin is a challenging work environment with hot dry summers and long cold winters, and they’ve had to increasingly deal with pests like Canada geese, rabbits, hares and wallabies. These new invaders impact the landscape and some also carry TB which is a threat to their cattle and deer herds.
Wilding pines are probably their biggest challenge and Braemar works with the Ministry of Primary Industries to control those. “Without controlling them they are going to have a huge impact on this landscape. I think we are down to the last chance to deal to them before they get away from us forever,” says Hamish.
Like many other landowners they are constantly undertaking weed and pest control, committing considerable effort and funding to keep them in check as best they can. The couple also provide access to their property for predator trapping and keep an eye out for nesting braided river birds like kakī. Hamish coordinated this season’s Canada geese control and they’re enjoying being part of the Te Manahuna Aoraki project and working with all the partners and stakeholders.
“In this area most landowners have really good relationships with DOC so to get the knowledge from iwi and find out what’s important to them, and where it might meet some of our values, that’s exciting. Also having the backing from people who are willing to put in funding and knowledge to make a difference in this really special area is really heartening,” says Julia.
“Te Manahuna Aoraki is a huge project, their approach to us was great because we were consulted and asked our opinion, making sure there was local buy in. There are well defined goals that we can look towards, shorter term and longer term ones,” says Hamish.
Hamish is proud to be involved. From a farming point of view he says it would be exciting not having to contend with as many Canada geese and hares, and farming would be easier if there was no threat of TB coming in from stoats, possums and wild cats. But as long term stewards of the land it’s the biodiversity gains the project hopes to achieve that also excite says Julia.
“Hopefully we’ll be sitting at home listening to native bellbirds, if we get out on the farm we’ll be seeing more kakī, and more banded dotterels in our rivers, and some of those other really special creatures that are now really hard to find. They’ll be more visible and thriving in our area, that’s my hope.”