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Shania's Songline

  • 05 Sep 2008

A deal being struck with Canadian country and western singer Shania Twain will secure a 48-kilometre Te Araroa tramping route across some of the South Island's most impressive landscape.


New trail


An easement for the route is being prepared as a condition of sale before the Overseas Investment Commission approves the application of Shania and husband Robert "Mutt" Lange to buy Motatapu and Soho Stations.


The two adjacent pastoral leases make up most of the distance between Wanaka and Arrowtown, and total 22,500 hectares (225 sq. kilometres). The Langes have also offered to pay for track construction, and two huts and campgrounds en route.


"We're very happy with the deal as proposed," said Te Araroa's Geoff Chapple. "and I'd stress that it's the Langes' initiative - part of meeting the OIC's 'national interest test' no doubt, but essentially their personal response to our original proposal. It wasn't forced on them, and their offer to pay for the track and huts is seriously generous - it'll go to six figures."


"We think it's going to be very popular as a stand-alone three-day tramp, and as part of the longer 2,920 km New Zealand tramping route."


"Right now there's no public access through those two stations," said Chapple. "The owners Don and Sally Mackay did allow an annual 'Motatapu Bash' bike ride through the main valley on one day a year. That will continue, but we're setting in place now something very different - a permanent 365-days-a-year tramping corridor. We've agreed to put the easement east of the main valley. That will guarantee the Langes their privacy. Also it'll be good for farm management because it keeps trampers away from the main farm race, and the animals. The eastern route is also more exciting - it climbs to 1500 metres with great views across mountainous country - north to Lake Wanaka, and south to Lake Wakatipu.


The track is expected to be in place by late 2005. Once the Overseas Investment Commission is satisfied with the easement and gives permission for sale, Land Information New Zealand will give its okay. The deal will then go back to the Langes and their lawyer, Queenstown's Bryce Jack, for a final sign-off.


"In May 2003 we heard that Shania Twain and Robert Lange wanted to buy the properties," said Chapple. "We wrote - as did the Wakatipu Trails Trust and a number of others - to the Overseas Investment Commission. We asked for an easement across both titles as a condition of sale."


"It's a great coup for the little guys that we got our voices heard. So far as I'm aware, the overseas owners who've been buying up pastoral leases have not in the past agreed to any access conditions. And nor has the OIC insisted on them. The sales have gone through without any such concessions, overseas owners have tended not to recognise the New Zealand tradition of access, and so by degrees the high country was being closed out. This one is a breakthrough. There will be a legal route where previously there was nothing. I hope it's a precedent."


"As well, nothing's been done here that prejudices any further bargaining on access if Crown Tenure Review takes place on these properties in the future."


The proposed Te Araroa route between Wanaka and Arrowtown would use a new lake-side easement from Wanaka township to Glendhu Bay. That easement was set aside in Te Araroa's favour during the recent Crown Tenure Review of Alphaburn Station. From Glendhu Bay the route goes up Motatapu Road, follows reserve land up Kennedy Spur then crosses onto Motatapu Station land. It sidles below Knuckle Peak, crosses the Motatapu River, goes over Roses Saddle, then follows an old bullock track down the true left of the Arrow River to the abandoned gold-mining settlement of Macetown. It then follows an existing 4WD track to Arrowtown.


Page last updated: Jul 28, 2020, 5:08 PM