A New Zealand farmer has blamed crippling COVID-19 travel restrictions for forcing him to sell his two south-west Victorian farms for about $12.5 million.
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Sold: The property at Gores Road, Ecklin South, is in the process of changing hands after it attracted interest Australia-wide.

In the past couple of months Kevin Watson has sold his 408-hectare property known as Acacia at Gores Road, Ecklin South, Vic, and another 300-plus hectare farm at Bend Road, just east of Terangm Vic.

The Bend Road farm changed hands in May and will continue as a dairy farm. Ecklin South is changing hands now.

Conservative estimates have the land valued at about $17,200 a hectare, making the Ecklin South property worth about $7 million and Bend Road about $5.5 million.

The Ecklin South property will be converted to a beef and sheep operation despite a new 50-unit rotary dairy recently being installed.

Mr Watson put his original Australian farm, the 650-hectare Acacia Downs, just north of Narracoorte, SA, on the market in 2019.

Mr Watson said in the past few years he had spent the majority of his time in Australia overseeing his farms.

He said travel restrictions between New Zealand and Victoria, associated with the pandemic, made his situation impossible.

“Because of COVID I just couldn’t be there,” he told The Standard from his New Zealand base on Thursday.

“It’s just too tough.”

Elders Camperdown rural real estate agent Rob Rickard said the Bend Road farm had been sold to a couple with young children from northern Victoria.

He said the “beautifully laid out farm” on the outskirts of Terang had modern infrastructure, complemented by irrigation.

“They are very experienced in the dairy industry and should make a real go of dairying on that property,” he said.

Mr Rickard said the Ecklin South property, and an adjoining 650-hectare farm, had been purchased by the same interests – an identity with local interests in western Victoria.

“The COVID-19 component was very relevant to Kevin as it was very difficult for him to manage his interests while living abroad,” he said.

“I know there were times when he wanted to get out here and simply could not.

“In the end selling was the best option for Kevin.”

Mr Rickard declined to reveal the sale prices for either of the properties he sold.

Regional small, organic dairy farm industry had been rocked by Horizon Organic nonrenewal.

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