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Chances are you’ve driven past Glendhu Station on your way out to Diamond Lake or Treble Cone Ski Mountain. The 1,300 hectares is perfectly situated opposite Glendhu Bay where John McRae, a 3rd generation farmer, works livestock using organic and biological methods.

But farming isn’t all that the station is used for these days. McRae has made it a long-term goal to diversify his business, offering up the high country terrain for events that include the Motatapu and Challenge Wānaka. Additionally, after three years of research and environmental impact-analysis, he leased his land and was instrumental  in the development of Bike Glendhu a world-class sustainable Bike Park.

We had a catchup with this local legend to discuss exactly how Glendhu Station has evolved over the years and why it’s only getting better.

Farmers in the shearing shed.

LWT: So John, Glendhu Station started primarily as a livestock farm. Can you give us a “then to now” snapshot?

JM: Glendhu Station was run as a sheep and beef station predominantly by the Scaiffe family  for 70 years up until 1969. After that my grandfather Ian purchased it, then my father Bob took it over and so on it goes. Skip forward to 2008 where our farm diversified into organic free-range egg farming alongside 300 angus beef cattle using organic and biological methods.

Shepherd and farmer with herd of cattle.

Funnily enough, it was actually the relationships I made through egg farming that lead to  our next venture, hosting weddings in the retired and revived Woolshed (below). By 2015 we sold our egg business (now known as Arnstead Farms) to solely focus on growing our new event offerings on the land. And I guess you could say, the rest is history!

A woodshed converted into a wedding venue.

LWT: We’ve seen some exciting changes happening out at Glendhu Bay over the past few years. Can you tell us a little more about what’s been taking shape?

JM: It has been a significant time of diversification for us on the farm in the last few years. Our wedding and event business at Glendhu Station has gone from strength to strength, especially as borders reopened. We’re now hosting both domestic and international guests who travel here to tie the knot in our famous Woolshed.

More recently, and after many conversations with some local bike enthusiasts, I decided to agree to utilise the land in a way that respected and preserved the natural environment which evidently marked the birth of Bike Glendhu in 2020. Admittedly, it was a very strange time to launch a venture collaboration with many unknowns on the horizon. But I have always had a strong vision for sharing the land and environment for inspiring and positive life change, so a bike park felt like the perfect fit. Bare in mind though, it’s not just any bike park – it’s one with a a steadfast commitment to sustainability and deep respect for the land.

Photo by Jay French

Separate to my businesses, I wanted to lease the land to community events that bring people from all over the world together. Since 2005, I’ve hosted the iconic Integrity Homes Challenge Wānaka and Motatapu Off-Road Sporting Event, which both begin on the land. Motatapu has gained status in Australasia and is known as the bucket-list off-road event for both elite athletes and weekend warriors. There really is something for everyone! Not to mention, each year we also open our land to them too.

And for the first time this year Ripe Wānaka will be hosting their Food & Wine festival on the land in March. It feels rewarding to be able to use it in ways that inspire positive change and connection in the Wānaka community.

View over looking a farm and Glendhu Bay

LWT: Wow! That’s a lot of great stuff happening. So what’s your long-term vision for Glendhu Station and why do you see it only getting better?

JM: The vision is indeed BIG! Our mission statement is that Glendhu Station wants to use the land and natural environment for inspiring and positive life change. Ideally 20 hectares of the land will be free to use solely for events and long-term leases for anything from weddings to bike parks, worm farms, community-led initiatives and beyond. The options are limitless, as long as the right intention is there.

At the end of the day, we just want to create experiences that generate both regional and international change, where people visit, take ideas and inspiration from. It could be a world first.

Drone shot over a valley and a lake in Glendhu Bay,

“At the end of the day, we just want to create experiences that generate both regional and international change, where people visit, take ideas and inspiration from. It could be a world first.” – John McRae.