The Canterbury Plains and the central South Island’s snow-capped peaks frame the Mackenzie Country, a dramatic region of open sheep-grazed grasslands that shimmer green in spring but dry off through summer to a golden brown. It is all beautifully set off (in Nov and Dec) by stands of purple, pink and white lupins – regarded as weeds but much loved nonetheless.
Light reflected from microscopic rock particles suspended in glacial meltwater lends an ethereal opaque hue to the region’s mesmerizingly blue, glacier-fed lakes, notably Tekapo, Pukaki and Ohau, which all form part of the Waitaki hydro scheme. At 700m above sea level, the region has some of the cleanest air in the southern hemisphere, and on a good day the sharp edges and vibrant colours make this one of the best places to photograph the Southern Alps, particularly around Tekapo.
The region encompasses New Zealand’s highest peak, Aoraki/Mount Cook, accessed from Aoraki/Mount Cook Village, a perfect spot for alpine hiking and glacier skiing.
Sadly, this iconic and beautiful landscape is under threat as high international milk prices are driving the conversion of sheep stations into dairy farms, the necessary lush grass being grown on fields moistened using massive irrigation arms that create kilometre-wide green circles of grass amid the otherwise brown landscape. They’re particularly intrusive around Twizel and Omarama.