MacKenzie Basin

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During recent years the high country of the South Island has attracted a good deal of attention from farm economists, soil conservationists, geographers and also politicians. With the present need for increased national production the problem of keeping the high country in productive occupation is the subject of justifiable concern. The purpose of this regional study is to describe one of the most distinctive areas in the high country, and to discuss the problems which have caused the recent Royal Commission on the Sheep-farming Industry in New Zealand to investigate the general economic position of the runholders.

A curious anomaly in the Mackenzie Basin

Besides being a well-defined physiographic unit, the Mackenzie Basin or, as it is better known to the local people, the Mackenzie Country has a distinctive character of its own. On entering Burkes Pass even the most casual observer cannot fail to notice how different the landscape within the basin appears compared with that outside. This large, gravel-filled intermontane depression with its vast expanse of dun coloured tussock and its clear, dry climate seems to have a special flavour which distinguishes it from any other part of either Canterbury or Otago.

Probably the most striking feature of the basin is its monotonous uniformity of both physical conditions and human activities. The extensive sheep-farming economy has imposed a distinctive pattern of land use over the whole area. Not only does the landscape have a similar appearance everywhere but, because of their common int erests, the people all tend to live alike and think alike. Before the basin was solely a sheep-grazing area but, with the recent developments connected with the storage of water in the lakes for the generation of hydro-electricity, the Mackenzie Country has assumed a new importance.

With the dam-building schemes at Tekapo and Pukaki an entirely new element has been introduced into the landscape - the large Public Works Camp.

Henare focuses on regional tourism sector

These camps, however, are, for the most part, temporary features and the sheep-station remains the typical unit of settlement. For this reason the major part of this study is devoted to a description of the landscape as it has developed under the extensive sheep-farming economy and a discussion of the problems resulting from the exploitation of the natural vegetation.

When the early settlers first took up their runs they had the opportunity of making the Mackenzie basin one of the best merino grazing areas in New Zealand. In most cases that opportunity was lost, due partly to ignorance of proper grazing methods under sub-humid conditions and partly to short-sighted practices caused by temporary economic difficulties. Over-burning and over-stocking extracted an early toll from the vegetation cover which, in spite of numerous attempts can never be fully repaid. By deliberately introducing rabbits into the area the early runholders made their third and possibly their greatest mistake.

These rabbits were allowed to multiply unchecked for nearly twenty years before it was realised what a menace they were likely to become. By that time it was too late. There is something for every level of comfort and budget. Hire a vehicle, journey by tram, bike, ferry or on foot.

The Mackenzie Country | LEARNZ

Explore the options here. Explore Canterbury cuisine. Our culturally diverse region has something to satisfy all tastes and budgets. Canterbury's Mackenzie region is a magical part of the world. You'll be captivated by the stunning scenery and exhilarated by the range of outdoor adventures.

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There are many events happening throughout the Mackenzie region - from horse racing, to mountain races, golf tournaments and agricultural shows. A snow lover's paradise, with 3 ski areas and exhilarating off-piste heli-skiing adventures. Explore this fascinating landscape on a cruise or kayak over the glacial lake. Aoraki's waka formed the South Island. Mackenzie skies are almost totally free from artificial light pollution making the region "one of the best stargazing sites on Earth". During the day, Mount John provides stunning panoramic views of the Mackenzie region. From gentle lakeshore walks to challenging multi-day hikes over alpine passes, there's something for every fitness level - and inspiring scenery is guaranteed.

Built as both a place of worship and memorial for Mackenzie's pioneering families, the alter window provides picture-postcard views over the lake to the mountains. There is something for every member of the family. There is nowhere in the world quite like Tekapo to see the wonder of the night sky, and a new visitor attraction will bring it to life like never before.

Explore now. Explore Your guide to shopping in Christchurch. Canterbury Destinations Canterbury prides itself as one of the most accessible regions in New Zealand. Explore Now.


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Accommodation Choose from a diverse range of accommodation. Search accommodation. Getting Around Hire a vehicle, journey by tram, bike, ferry or on foot.

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