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High-country dream for land management advisor

From musterer, to horsemanship, to real estate and truck driving, Environment Canterbury land management advisor Lachie Ashton has spent his career pursuing his dream of owning a high-country station.

Lachie Ashton loves the farm life. The Environment Canterbury land management advisor grew up on a 3000ha family farm at Waitahuna – a farming area between Milton and Lawrence in South Otago.

“I have great memories of growing up on the farm with swimming, riding ponies and working on the farm as Dad employed no labour.

“I had a team of dogs and could shear before I left school. One of my real passions is hill country properties and working with sheep, cattle, horses and dogs."

It was only natural then, that Lachie's life dream became to own a high-country station.

Lachie grew up around animals which helped fuel his passion for the high country.

Lachie's versatile career

My time as a musterer

After finishing school, Lachie went into full time casual mustering and worked on sheep and beef farms in Queenstown, Wanaka, and Southland.

Lachie on a barge delivering sheep
"It was the best job I ever had."

He also worked at a trotting stable, where he trained horses, gaining his full horseman's licence. He qualified a couple of horses and managed to sell one to America.

Achieving as a real estate agent

"My goal was to not just work in the high country but to own one. I wasn’t going to do it on a musterer’s wage, so I wandered into real estate," Lachie says.

As a real estate agent, Lachie sold everything from farms, holiday homes and businesses, such as Coronet Peak Station.

Coronet Peak in the High-country

Farming in Australia

"That gave me enough money to buy 2300 ha in Australia. The goal there was to build enough equity to come back and buy a high-country property," he said.

However, one of Australia's worst droughts occurred during the time Lachie and his family lived there, causing him to have to destock and get other work outside farming.

After five years, and eroding equity, he sold up and returned to New Zealand.

"Even though it was a real struggle, we still enjoyed the experience. We bordered a national park and wildlife in the area was quite significant.

"It was just tough financially and tough trying to build equity which was the purpose of going there. Instead it was just like going on an expensive holiday.

On returning to Dunedin, Lachie's interest in e-commerce led him to study part-time towards a Bachelor of Information Technology degree while looking after his children.

"I could see the potential in e-commerce around the world. So much business is done in e-commerce and I was looking at it as another avenue for income to still buy a high-country station," he says.

However, with Tenure Review, which came in in the late 1990s, and allowed high country properties to be privatised for use, Lachie's dream became that much more difficult.

New beginnings as a land management advisor

When Lachie and his wife moved to Canterbury four years ago, he had hoped to get a manager’s position on a high-country station.

"But I found that at my age, it's not that easy to get," he admits.

But working with farmers as a land management advisor for Environment Canterbury in the Selwyn and Ashburton zones is the next best thing, he says.

"I said in my interview, I don’t want to spend my time having disputes with farmers, I want to help them, and that's the appeal of the role, that it's about helping farmers to take action and do what they need to do to comply with the rules.

Lachie is working specifically with farmers in Ashburton District, Kaituna Valley and the area around Te Waihora/Lake Ellesmere.

The most interesting experience so far is meeting people through the Leeston drop-in sessions.

“It’s been interesting to have people coming in and hearing their different stories as well as helping them understand what they need to do to comply with the rules,” Lachie says.

"I love the one on one contact and I don't mind cold calling to go and see the farmers- that comes from my real estate background."

The flexibility of the job also means Lachie's got more time to pursue his other love- multisport.

He recently competed in the Motatapu Marathon, achieving 44th position out of 450 competitors.

Lachie at the Motatapu Marathon

But always in the back of his mind is the pursuit of his dream to own property in the high country.

"Owning a high-country station has been a driver for me right from when I first left school, and it's always been a driving factor."

"I'm not going to die wondering, I'm going to give it a go."
"Owning a high-country station has been a driver for me right from when I first left school, and it's always been a driving factor." Lachie says.

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