A new Northern Territory cattle station is blending sound environmental practices, tourism and a pastoral business to forge its place in the landscape of the savannah country.
Along the southern border of Arnhem Land, savannah woodland punctuated by rocky escarpments stretches out on both sides of a meandering creek that eventually spills into the Roper River. In this ancient landscape surrounded by indigenous land, 1350-square-kilometre Conways Station is a newcomer. Three years ago, Morgan Lorimer and his wife Nicky, in a consortium of three New Zealand farming families, bought Conways after the split of the pre-existing Mountain Valley Station.
“One of the greatest appeals of Conways is that the wet season guarantees about 40 inches [101.6 centimetres] of rain every year and we also have natural springs and permanent waterholes,” Morgan says at dawn one morning as he prepares a helicopter for a long day of mustering. With him will be half a dozen station hands on horseback and another mounted on a quad bike. The countryside undulates with loamy flats and valleys between the hills. “We speculate that someone aptly named the station originally,” Nicky says. In most areas there is an abundance of native pasture that is very suitable to running cattle, with soils varying from black to red that are rich in nutrients, and with more sandy loam found in the north.
The Lorimers met when Morgan was making up to $1200 a day shoeing horses in Sydney so he could return to the Top End to start his own herd of cattle. “I would have gone anywhere with him but feel lucky that we both fell in love with this beautiful property and came up here to set up a life,” Nicky, a former sales and marketing manager, says with a ready laugh. “Morgan was miserable in the city. I left my whole life behind in Sydney, but I don’t regret it for a nanosecond. Three days after we got married, we put our life in a trailer and drove eight days across the country to get here.”