New scholarship honours Kiwi farming leader

The memory of one of New Zealand's modern farming leaders has been honoured today with the establishment of the John H Aspinall Scholarship to support study into public access to the outdoors and New Zealand's farming heritage.

The annual $5,000 scholarship has been made possible through a partnership between the Aspinall family and the New Zealand Walking Access Commission (NZWAC). It is named after the late John (Henry) Aspinall - a highly respected South Island farming leader who passed away in 2011 at the age of 60.

NZWAC Chairman John Forbes said the scholarship celebrated Mr Aspinall's enthusiasm for farming, the land, and access of the outdoors as part of the New Zealand way of life. It also supported the idea of 'linking New Zealand', which Mr Aspinall strongly supported.

“John was passionate about making sure other New Zealanders had the same opportunities to enjoy the Kiwi way of life as he did. It is our hope that this scholarship will provide a chance for a student to study a topic that will contribute to greater understanding of the benefits of improved relationships between urban and rural New Zealand.”

Mr Aspinall was a member of the NZWAC Board when he passed away and his death was widely felt by New Zealand farming and outdoor recreation communities. He and the Aspinall family are well known for their generosity in allowing up to 80,000 people each year to cross their family farm - Mount Aspiring Station.

Mr Aspinall's wife Sue said she was thrilled that the scholarship would be available to a student who shared John's passion for connecting urban and rural New Zealand.

“Access and farming was important to John and he just loved helping young people and teaching them about the outdoors. He felt strongly about access to the outdoors and it was very seldom he would turn someone away when they asked to cross the station,” Mrs Aspinall said.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said it was fitting that the Aspinall family's legacy and Mr Aspinall's outstanding contribution to New Zealand's farming tradition were being honoured.

“John and his family have made an immense contribution to our country's farming tradition. Today's scholarship announcement is a fitting gesture that will make an important difference for a New Zealander who wishes to pursue their passion.”

Prior to his passing, Mr Aspinall had served on the national board of Federated Farmers and been a driving force behind setting up the Hieracium Control Trust. The Aspinalls were supreme winners of the Otago Ballance Farm Environment Awards and, in 1995, Mr Aspinall was honoured with an achievement award by the Otago branch of the Institute of Agricultural Science.

Federated Farmers High Country Chairman Chas Todhunter said his group was delighted that the Walking Access Commission had seen fit to commemorate Mr Aspinall's contribution to the community in this way.

“John had some firm opinions on farming and access” he said, “but he also had an uncanny ability to understand various points of view and bring the parties together.

“As we see it, this scholarship is designed, not only to recognise John's ability in this, but to perpetuate his work - a fitting tribute indeed”, Mr Todhunter concluded.

The scholarship will be managed by Universities New Zealand on behalf of the New Zealand Walking Access Commission. Scholarship applicants must be currently enrolled, either full time or part time, in an Honours, Masters or Doctoral programme at a New Zealand university. Anybody interested in applying for the scholarship is invited to email