The land, buildings and farm housing New Zealand’s first search and rescue youth training facility – which also doubles as a regional Scout camp – have been placed on the market for sale.
The property sits at the base of the Kaimai Mountain Range, which separates the Bay of Plenty from the Waikato, and is a working dairy farm.
Within the farm, where the grassed paddocks meet the edge of the mountains, are various huts and outbuildings which make up a youth training camp compound. The buildings – which are about the size of an average four-bedroom house - encompass bunk/dormitory style bedrooms, a central classroom, shower and toilet facilities, and partially-covered gas-powered cooking and kitchen amenity.
The structures were originally working men’s huts used by engineers on the nearby Kaimai rail tunnel in the 1970s, and were transported onto the site by members of the scouting fraternity. The huts were positioned around a small hay shed. Combined, the bunk rooms and compound can accommodate up to 30 people at any one time.
Following an upgrade of the premises to bring them back up to a habitable state with the installation of insulation and off-the-grid sources, Youth Search and Rescue took over responsibility for the site in 2009. Since then, some 325 high school students have attended Youth Search and Rescue training camps on the property.
The buildings and camp are operated and managed by the youth search and rescue organisation – the first training facility of its type to be set up in New Zealand, which acts as a recruitment conduit for the full search and rescue body nationwide.
The charity uses the facility some 12 – 15 weekends a year, while both the Hamilton and the Matamata Scout troops each have access to the amenity two times each annually.
The groups use the compound thanks to a 43-year ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with the farm’s original owner, David McNeil, and more recently his son Peter, who took over the dairying operation before passing away earlier this year.
Youth Search and Rescue general manager Steve Campbell hopes any new owner of the farm at 3596 State Highway 29 near Matamata will look at the camp enclave from a philanthropic point of view, and will let the various youth organisations continue to have access rights under their current agreements.
“The site has an incredible community legacy to it, both in the Bay of Plenty and the Waikato, and that legacy would be fantastic for any new owners to continue,” Mr Campbell said.
The 262 hectare property is being marketed for sale at auction on November 9 through Bayleys Hamilton. Salesperson Neville Jacques said the property was primarily a working dairy farm – milking some 186 cows in a relatively new two-year-old rotary shed, which produced 55,262 kilogrammes of milk solids in the 2015/2016 season.
Mr Jacques said the campground infrastructure and tracks up into the Kaimai Ranges had minimal impact on the farm’s day-to-day operations, and in fact opened up an opportunity for additional revenue streams off the back of its rural core-business.
“There is the obvious opportunity to pursue commercial development of the existing ‘camp’ facilities – either along the lines of adventure tourism, or as a rustic farm-stay accommodation amenity,” he said.
“The facilities are already professionally run through a centralised booking system administered by search and rescue, and it is foreseeable that the addition of farm guests could dove-tail in with that so that there is no cross-over of occupancy.
“Being in such close proximity to the Kaimais, with their proliferation of wild deer and boar, the accommodation could also be commercially let as a hunting lodge.”
Additional farm infrastructure on the block includes a four-bedroom homestead, a two-bedroom cottage, four bay workshop and machinery storage shed, a walk-through cow shed now used for storage, two calf rearing sheds, and an open-air fertiliser storage bunker. Grazing paddocks are gravity-irrigated by multiple bush streams coming out of the Kaimai Ranges.