Anaru farm in the Marlborough Sounds – one of New Zealand's oldest continually owned properties – is on the market for sale. Anaru farm in the Marlborough Sounds – one of New Zealand's oldest continually owned properties – is on the market for sale. CREDIT: Bayleys
Anaru landscape from the water Anaru landscape from the water CREDIT: Bayleys
Down to the waterline at Anaru Down to the waterline at Anaru CREDIT: Bayleys

Historic family farm set for new ownership for the first time since 1857

Friday 29 October 2010, 12:07PM
By Bayleys


A property believed to be New Zealand’s oldest continually-owned farm has been placed on the market for sale… for the first time in 153 years.

Anaru farm in the French Pass region of the Marlborough Sounds at the top of the South Island was first settled by the Elmslie and Webber families in 1857 – with an official plaque on the property acknowledging their pioneering achievement. Elmslie Bay on the peninsula takes its name from the original Elmslie family.

Now direct descendants of fellow settler Wallace Webber are selling up the 480 hectare farm. After a lifetime working the land, great-grandson Bill Webber his wife Ngawai, and brother John are selling the farm - not that any of them will be moving far from the area.

Bill and Ngawai plan to ‘retire’ to an adjoining 30 hectare lifestyle block – meaning Bill doesn’t have to sell his beloved fishing boat, and Ngawai still maintains her active involvement with various community groups. They plan to develop their homestay and backpacker business, as well as taking visitors on chartered fishing and sightseeing trips in the various bays around Anaru.

Anaru farm is situated in the outer Pelorous Sounds opposite Durville Island, some two hours drive from Nelson or Blenheim, and is being marketed for sale through Bayleys - with a deadline of November 18 for all expressions of interest required to be submitted.

The Webber brothers admit it will be hard leaving the property their forefathers farmed for generations, but Bill says the hills and maintenance of such a big unit are taking their toll on a body which has lived at Anaru since a boy - when their grandfather and uncle ran the property.

Bill and his brother John farmed Anaru together from 1963 until 2007, when John began managing a neighbouring farm. John retired from that role and now lives close by in Elmslie Bay.

“Yeah, there may be a tear or two in the eye, but there was already a bit of that when we decided to put Anaru on the market and the ‘for sale’ signs went up. Now we realise that we have to move on, and selling the farm is the natural path to achieve that,” said 67-year-old Bill.

The couple’s children, while in love with the coastal farm which has been in the family for four generations, are all ‘city-dwellers’ and have little inclination to continue on the Webber farming tradition – even with its inherent access to the bountiful seafood from Anaru’s shoreline.

Bayleys Canterbury sales consultant John McPhail said Anaru farm has traditionally operated as a sheep and beef breeding/grazing unit, carrying some 2325 stock units across 23 fenced blocks. The main part of the farm overlooking French Pass contains 17 of those blocks, with the balance of the property located in Admiralty Bay.

Anaru farm has a three stand wool shed with an adjoining all-weather stock loading facility and a number of stunning potential building sites with spectacular ocean views. The relatively steep hill country delivers open clean hill faces, with native bush in the sheltered gullies, and a number of protected bays and beaches for safe boating anchorages.

From an historic ownership perspective, the release of Anaru farm onto the market eclipses the previous record sale of a turn-of-the-last-century homestead in nearby Onahau Bay in Queen Charlotte sound which went under the auctioneers hammer last year.

That Onahau Bay property was owned by the same family for 150 years – and was sold by the last remaining daughters of the original settler. Coincidentally, that property was also marketed by Bayleys Marlborough.

In 1857 when Anaru farm was first broken in by Arthur Elmslie and Wallace Webber, the estimated population of New Zealand was just 106,952 people. Other notable events from 1857 alongside the establishment of Anaru farm include:

• An earthquake measuring 7.9 striking California, then later in the year another
earthquake hits Tokyo killing more than 100,000 people, and another quake rocking
Naples with the loss of 11,000 lives

•France and the United Kingdom formally declaring war on China

•The first Otis elevator was installed – in a New York office block

•New York banks closed following a major financial panic and not reopen for two

•Sheffield Football Club, the world’s first ‘association football’ team, was founded in