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Lighthouse neighbour shines a ray of light on tragic history dairy farm sale

Tags: Rural

An historic dairy farm overlooking the ocean graveyard of New Zealand’s worst maritime disaster has been placed on the market for sale.

Lighthouse Farms on the northern tip of the southern entrance to Auckland’s Manukau Harbour overlooks the harbor entrance where the HMS Orpheus ran aground in February 1863 - resulting in the deaths of 189 naval officers, seamen and Royal Marines aboard.

The British navy warship Orpheus and her crew of 259 were bringing naval military stores from Sydney to the port at Onehunga. Outdated harbour charts meant ship captain Commodore William Burnett failed to see that the Manukau Heads sand bar had shifted, and the Orpheus subsequently ran aground amid a large swell.

As the Orpheus sank into the sand bar, sailors began climbing the rigging to avoid drowning. When the masts eventually collapsed, the crew were thrown into the tumultuous seas.

Some of the soldiers who could swim ended up on the beach underneath the cliffs of Lighthouse Farms – clambering up the sandy bluffs in search of rescuers and salvation.

Most, however, drowned. For the British, it was the costliest day of the New Zealand Wars. A memorial plaque commemorating the loss of lives on the Orpheus is located on the boundary-line fence of Lighthouse Farms.

The Manukau Heads lighthouse and coastguard signal station – built much later after the Orpheus tragedy – are also located across the road of the farm’s northern periphery.

Now the freehold rural-zoned Lighthouse Farms property is being marketed for sale by tender through Bayleys Pukekohe, with tenders closing on November 1. Salesperson Ben Jameson said the farm was being sold as a going concern, with the option to also purchase 131,000 Fonterra shares and both the dairy and beef herds.

He said the three blocks making up Lighthouse Farms were broken down into separate legal entities of 145.2 hectares, 113.7 hectares, and 95.6 hectares – with multiple titles across the farm.

The farm at Manukau Heads Road/Lighthouse Road at the top of the Awhitu Peninsula currently milks some 400 dairy cows forecast to produce 130,000 kilogrammes of milk solids in the current season, as well as sustaining a herd of some 250 dairy replacement and beef grazing cattle.

Infrastructure on the farm includes:

• A 19-aside herring bone cow shed

• Four dwellings – incorporating a main four-bedroom homestead, and three additional three-bedroom staff residences

• An eight-bay half-round hay shed

• Two additional hay barns

• A feed silo and hardstand area

• A wool shed with covered yard

• An implement shed

• An 8000 litre per hour water bore and pumping system. and

• An effluent storage and disposal system

Mr Jameson said the farm consisted of a mixture of terrain – ranging from grazing plateaus and sheltered valleys, through to rugged West Coast sand dunes overlooking the Tasman Sea.

“The Manukau Harbour coastguard signal station and lighthouse are adjacent to the property, adding plenty of activity and character to the rural lifestyle on Lighthouse Farms,” Mr Jameson said.

“The somber reminder of the Orpheus tragedy is regularly visited by tourists to the peninsula, and adds to the property’s majestic appeal as a ‘trophy’ farm - sustaining not only an economic return, but also a stunning location just a 10 minute helicopter flight from downtown Auckland.”

Mr Jameson said that depending on the personnel management and operational structures employed on the farm, there was the potential to utilise some of the existing farm dwellings for farm-stay accommodation – drawing on their stunning location overlooking the Manukau Harbor and Tasman Sea and its historic place in New Zealand’s pioneering history.

“There are extensive races across the property for efficient stock movement. In the height of the production season the farm employs up to five staff. Waiuku township is some 35 minutes’ drive away,” he added.

Mr Jameson said Lighthouse Farms’ topsoil consisted of red hill sandy free-draining loam with a volcanic overlay. The locality recorded an annual average rainfall of 1181 millimetres.

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