NEW MANAGEMENT: Sarah and Tom Barnes are part of the team transforming the 74-year-old Oakwood property at Kandanga into a biodiverse food hub.
NEW MANAGEMENT: Sarah and Tom Barnes are part of the team transforming the 74-year-old Oakwood property at Kandanga into a biodiverse food hub. Troy Jegers

Multi-million dollar revamp of champagne Kandanga property

SEVEN decades of agricultural success at Kandanga is headed into the future with a multi-million dollar effort under way to transform Oakwood into a biodiverse food hub.

Packhorse Investment chairman Tom Strachan said he was thrilled to add to the legacy of Ian and Elaine Hart, who moved to Mt Tambourine from the property last year.

They bought the property in 1949, and officially wound up their company Oakwood Pastoral this month.

 

John O'Kane
John O'Kane is helping to run Oakwood. Troy Jegers

The Harts declined to comment on the decision but Mr Strachan was happy to sing the praises of their impact in the Mary Valley, one which was key to their goal of turning Oakwood into the region's food hub.

"We couldn't do that without the work of the Harts," he said.

Sprawling across more than 4000ha at Kandanga, Oakwood has long been home to cattle and deer.

The cattle still call it home as Mr Strachan and his seven-strong staff begin their work to develop the property's biodiversity "across the animals and soil".

 

Gympie Oakwood - John O'Kane
John O'Kane. Troy Jegers

"We need to adopt what nature does naturally," he said.

As to the financial investment to date, Mr Strachan was coy, saying it had been "significant" and was easily seven figures.

The property caught the eye of Mr Strachan's company Packhorse for a range of reasons.

One was the fact there was no record of hail falling at Oakwood at any point in the Hart's 74-year run.

Then there are the soil tests which came back better than expected, and the minor detail of the property's 90-minute location from a major airport.

 

Gympie Oakwood - John O'Kane
John O'Kane at the Oakwood property. Troy Jegers

Oakwood's success is not the only goal.

"In the future it's not about Oakwood, it's about the Mary Valley being a prominent story for the world," Mr Strachan said.

If anyone can achieve that for the Valley it is Mr Strachan.

He is also the owner the champagne 7300ha Lighthouse station, north of Australia's biggest cattle sales yards in Roma.

 

Gympie Oakwood - Tom Barns
Tom Barnes at one of the higher points of the Mary Valley's Oakwood property. Troy Jegers

The Financial Review in 2015 reported his wealth was estimated by the BRW Young Rich List at $47 million.

With other irons still in the Packhorse agricultural fire, the day-to-day operations at Oakwood are handled by staff John O'Kane, and husband and wife Tom and Sarah Barnes.