As the sun rose, four-wheel drives rolled into the Quartz Hill Station yard to start the hotly anticipated Windwhistle 4WD High Country Tour on Sunday, 19th of March, a fundraising event for the Windwhistle primary school.
The Windwhistle 4WD High Country Tour on the 19th of March 2023 was a huge success because it was a collaboration of this whole rural community, including school parents, landowners, the Hororata Community Trust and corporate sponsors. All of these groups know the value of having a primary school in this isolated rural area. Without a good school, it is challenging to attract new families to work and live in the area.
Windwhistle School needs to fundraise over $65,000 per annum just to cover basic operating costs and as well as having the task of building up a second teacher fund as the school is right on the cusp of losing ministry funding for the second teacher due to diminishing student numbers. With only 10 – 15 families at the school, this is a huge undertaking.
One of the organising committee, Georgie Harper, said, “This has been an incredible event for our whole community. To have sold out in a matter of weeks was humbling, people came from around New Zealand, and even Australia, to attend.
To have all of the community working towards a common goal of securing the future of our little country school is really very special. Not only has the event been a successful fundraiser, it was also a fabulous day as we welcomed people from near and far to our land to enjoy spectacular views, varied and challenging 4WDing, delicious food and above all else great company.
Thank you to the landowners who opened their gates for us, to the sponsors who backed us and to all the volunteers; this would not have happened without you. We hope to do more of these tours in the future, so stay tuned.”
Windwhistle 4WD High Country Tour – a report from the day:
After a cuppa and tasty muffin served by school parents the convoy set off, travelling through Quartz Hill. Within 30 minutes, they found themselves on a challenging track, climbing to a ridge line to be wowed with 360-degree views.
Winding down to the valley floor Colin Guild talked over the dedicated radio frequency about the 1973 snow, which impacted the Stations hugely, and the changes in technology, like weather forecasting that now allows them to prepare for major storms.
This is a distinctive part of the country where the foothills meet the high country with varied and different ecosystems. Crossing onto High Peak Station, James Guild spoke of his family’s work on this station to protect certain areas under QEII covenants.
The track went up Bush Gully Stream with a steady climb to a tussock plateau. The track was a little slippery from the recent rain which made guests feel like they were really four-wheel driving.
The convoy then descended into Snowdon Station across newly sown paddocks to one of the most stunning lunch spots anyone could ask for. School families again greeted people with a gourmet lunch box to enjoy while sitting amongst the tussocks soaking in the views. Roy and Annabel spoke during lunch about farming life on Snowdon Station and their work conserving specific areas of wetlands and bush.
When crossing into Dry Acheron Station, the landscape changed from tussock lands to more rugged and rocky. At the boundary between the Dry Acheron and Big Ben Stations, both part of the Coleridge Downs farming group, Tony Plunkett spoke of the cadet’s programme they run. This programme gives young people a pathway into agriculture. Cadets come from all over New Zealand and every year there is huge interest in places, showing that people are interested in working in the agriculture industry, they just need an opportunity.
A point of interest was the Black Hole Pond which is an artificially dammed pond at the mouth of a tributary valley of the Dry Acheron stream. This was dammed in the 1960’s as a pond for fishing and a refuge for wildlife enhancing the existing swamp/pond for wildlife.
The impressive moving catering volunteers met the convoy with afternoon tea on a terrace near the end of the track, which gave fantastic views of the Mt Hutt range, Rakaia River and the Southern Alps.
After 8 hours over 45 km everyone returned to the main road with big smiles and memories that will last for a long time.