Sheep on the move near Glenorchy.

On the next episode, screening Sunday 13 May at 7pm on TVNZ 1:

Routeburn Station, nestled on the edge of Central Otago’s Mt Aspiring National Park, is picture perfect and a tourist mecca. But it’s also still a working farm.

It’s been a popular tourist destination for the last 100 years, but running a farm amongst holiday-makers has its challenges. 

“They’ve just got to learn to wait – they’re on holiday!” jokes manager Stu Percy as he musters a mob of sheep along the road while tourist cars bank up behind him. 

Along with Routeburn, Stu also manages two other stations, Greenstone and Elfin Bay. All three are owned by South Island iwi, Ngai Tahu, as part of an historic treaty settlement and they are now run as one farm.  

Ngai Tahu kaumatua Sir Tipene O’Reagan says the stations are the jewel in the iwi’s farming crown. “What we've got is a treasure,” he says. “It's very beautiful. It's rich in history. It carries all that mythology.”

He believes the continued success of the farming unit is solely down to good management. Routeburn was the first manager’s job that Stu Percy and his wife Anne took on. That was 35 years ago and they’ve never left. 

Mustering cattle in the Greenstone Valley.

Sir Tipene says being able to retain their services after Ngai Tahu took over 20 years ago has been a key to the farm’s success. “They have intelligently and thoughtfully farmed this land,” he says. 

A highlight of the farming year is the Greenstone cattle muster. Stu heads out with a team of largely volunteer musterers to cover over 100 kilometres of some of the most spectacular back country in the Southern Lakes district.  

It’s hard, dirty work marking calves in makeshift yards and the accommodation is basic. The hut is alarmingly named the Rat’s Nest. “I think most people want to say they've stayed in the Rat's Nest,” Stu says. “It's got bit ring to it, hasn’t it?”

The iconic station has many visitors, but Stu, who lives on it every day, is still affected by its beauty. “It's quite a magical place really. I'm very lucky,” he says. “You've got to pinch yourself some days just to make you really appreciate it.”

Find out more about Ngai Tahu here.

Find out more about Routeburn Walks here.

Read more about Routeburn Farm Cottage B&B here.



Thanks to 

Ngai Tahu  & Glacier Southern Lakes Helicopters


Archive Photos provided by

Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington



Dan Henry


Camera & Aerial Photography

Peter Young


Field Sound

Don Paulin

John Patrick


Editor & Colourist 

Mike Townsend


Post Production Manager

Bailey Palmer


Sound Mixer

Ian Leslie



Stephen Gallagher


Production Manager

Robyn Best



Vivienne Jeffs 


Network Executive

Vicki Keogh


Associate Producer

Dan Henry



Celia Jaspers



Julian O’Brien