Country superstar turned pop princess Shania Twain doesn't have to count sheep to sleep - she can dream of her New Zealand high country retreat.

Twain, real name Eileen Regina, and producer -songwriter husband Robert Lange paid $21.4 million for the perpetual lease of Motatapu Station and Mt Soho Station, near Wanaka on the south island.

The perpetual leases are the largest block of South Island high country ever sold to an overseas bidder.

These properties adjoin and straddle the Wanaka basin - her total land area is 24,731 hectares.

Twain and Lange bought the leases with spare change from her album sales that have soared beyond 50 million in her stellar career.

Hers is an ethos born of a hard-knock childhood that reads like a Canadian version of the Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn story.

Parton invested her profits in the famed Dollywood theme park and other Tennessee real estate and Loretta settled on her southern Tennessee Dude Ranch and environs.

Twain and Lange retreated from their upstate New York property in the Airondarks and spread their investments in Switzerland and New Zealand.

The Kiwi public will have access to around one-sixth of the area, and land above 1100 metres will be fenced off, retired from grazing, and subjected to a covenant with the Department of Conservation.

All this land is above the snow line.


Twain and Lange have agreed to spend a minimum of $221,000 building the walking track and huts.

Another condition of the sale is expenditure of $1.6m upgrading the farm, which will become a merino wool business, managed by a New Zealander.

Shania plans to farm up to 15,000 merino sheep on her properties and expects to turn the investment into an $800,000-a-year business within two years.

But her business plan did not impress the Overseas Investment Commission much - officials questioned whether the two rugged high-country sheep stations will ever become viable.

Documents issued by the commission under Official Information Act outline Twain's plans to spend a further $3.2 million developing the 24,731-hectare farms.

The couple's business proposal expected that by 2007 the combined sheep station would have a gross annual income of $796,385 and gross profit just over $270,000.

"The applicants maintain that they are investing a considerable amount of capital to turn a non-performing farm into a viable economic unit," the documents say.

"The commission questions whether that is actually the case."

The couple's cash-flow projections indicated "a low rate of return for the farming operation, which raises questions about whether it really is a viable farming investment".

The business will require six fulltime employees and a further 15 staff over three years to work on development projects.

These include a $1.5 million home for the couple; $250,000 to build woolsheds and sheep yards, $100,000 for shearers' quarters; fencing worth $360,000, and $80,000 on roads and an airstrip.


Twain soared summer charts with her latest Greatest Hits disc that followed her multi genre marketing of sixth album Up.

The album contains two CDs of the same songs sequenced identically, a "red" disc with a harder, rock-leaning cast and a "green" one garnished with mandolin, fiddle, banjo and steel guitar.

A third set of "blue" international mixes that bear a Bhangra stamp is available either as a high-priced import or download on the singer's Web site - www.shaniatwain.com Those albums features something for everyone alongside Twain's torqued-up twang and hooks.

Up! enabled Twain to sell her pro-woman tune She's Not Just a Pretty Face, pro-intimacy Wanna Get to Know You (That Good!), pro-commitment Forever and for Always and pro-self-determination In My Car (I'll Be the Driver).

It was a nice little earner but still sits in recycled record stores alongside her early demo discs released to cash in on her latter day success.



When Canadian chanteuse Shania Twain leaped the moat to myopic mainstream radio in summer via a dance mix of old country hit If You're Not In It For Love she didn't let the memorable moment pass.

The singer was so moved by her overnight success in the unlucky radio country she returned here in autumn with a dance mix of another seasoned single You Win My Love.

Ms Twain primed the publicity pump to prove she wasn't a banished blip on radio's radar with a full-scale assault through an intensive TV & radio campaign.

Although this single hasn't surpassed the success of her breakthrough hit the visit has been a powerful profile propellant.

It helped push her huge selling second album The Woman In Me back into the Top 10 and stampeded her worldwide LP sales way past 10 million.

That was a remarkable feat - Shania hadn't toured live since a 1993 triple-header with Toby Keith and John Brannen to showcase her self-titled debut disc.

The image-makers didn't take any chances with Ms Twain's TV trek - all visual signs of her country instrumentation were removed from the small screen.

This enabled Shania to be sold to the long suffering city slickers raised on a straight jacket of hits and memories radio and TV variety show schmaltz.

It also ensured Twain was not associated with the shocker ocker image of Australiana hicks who have long stunted the growth of progressive Australian country music.

Polygram Records did an excellent job - the sensual songbird, hitherto unknown here except to hipper country fans, is now a household name akin to Sheryl Crow, Celine Dion, Maria Carey and Alanis Morrisette.

Folks who wouldn't know a fiddle from a mandolin flocked to buy her music.

Ms Twain and producer husband Mutt Lange have already finished her third album and plan to tour internationally in October to quell the sceptics who missed her debut.

It's an extension of the assertive good vibes worldly woman aura created on The Woman In Me, with a lacing of social comment.


"There's one song Black Eyes, Blue Tears which deals with domestic abuse and how to overcome that bad situation," Shania told Nu Country.

"It's about taking freedom by the horns and going for it. It's very positive aftermath to a failed relationship. It's the preventative measure of not having to take drastic action in a situation like that in Gretchen Peters Independence Day (a huge hit for Martina McBride). It's there to encourage people to get out of a bad situation when you still have a chance, that you do have self esteem and it's waiting to be uncovered. Everyone has the strength to overcome these sort of things. "

The duo trimmed the recorded product back to 16 of their compositions.

"I think it's very important for young people who are singers and want to be recording artists to write their own songs," Shania says, "it's very difficult to find good songs. When you're a new artist you're usually last on the list for good songs. If you really want quality songs the best way is to develop your writing skills and do it yourself. When you head off to the bank and realise the money you're making from writing, the real wealth is in the measuring stick of creativity and reward. You don't have to rely on other writers. You can be independent. Nothing feels better than that."

The value of creativity and material comfort is not lost on Ms Twain who was reared in abject poverty in the wilds of outback Canada.


At eight she sang for her supper in bars after midnight when the booze was turned off.
"I would go in and do a set and get my $25," Shania recalled in the opulent environs of the vast Como suite where K.D. Lang also entertained the media on a promo tour, "by the time I was 11 I was actually given a permit to perform. I was writing songs at 10 and sneaking them into my sets."

Shania supplemented her singing at 17 as foreperson of a re-afforestation team and at 21 suffered a tragedy that changed her life.

Her mother and stepfather were killed in a traffic wreck and she sacrificed her independence to raise her younger siblings.

Although Shania missed the freedom of growing up as a free spirit she developed a discipline that has been beneficial to her career.

It has given her an inner resolve, something that will be handy when she begins the gruelling work of promoting the sequel to a disc that unleashed so many hits.

Most of those hits - Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under, No-One Needs To Know, You Win My Love, God Bless The Child, Home Ain't Where The Heart Is and the title track - will only be known here by Nu Country listeners or those who bought the disc after the dance mixes escaped.

Shania is confident her third album will consolidate her in the Australian mainstream without her being dismissed as a dance mix diva.

"I don't want to give too much away," Twain revealed, "it's a very upbeat album but there's also a few intimate moments. It's very exciting and it's going to be a fun live show. It will very much be a couple of touring years for me. Things will change drastically - this will be very much a live touring album."

Shania is not as surprised with her Australian success as local observers who have seen international country artists - Johnny Cash, Waylon & Willie, Garth Brooks, Dwight Yoakam, Emmylou Harris and LeAnn Rimes - pull capacity crowds here despite being treated like lepers by commercial radio.

"International mainstream airplay has been my hope all along," says Shania, "it happened in Canada and now it's happening in Australia. Hopefully it will happen in other countries. The music's always had the potential to do that. I consider myself lucky that Australia has caught onto that - I'm surprised it did catch on as it didn't look like it would at first."

On an even playing field that success would be shared by stable-mates Kathy Mattea, Terri Clark and Kim Richey; sadly you have to look back to the sixties when Cash and late peers Johnny Horton and Marty Robbins were played here on commercial radio.

Although fellow Canadian Donna Huber - a Twain clone - and country satirist Cledus T Judd make a healthy living in Shania's slipstream she hasn't suffered bitchiness from her peers.

Luckily, she hasn't heard the flak from faded femme fatales who are John Deere Green from lack of success of her magnitude.

"That's a great word (bitchiness)" Shania laughed, "people are fairly supportive of what's happening. It's done really great things for the music industry. Other artists champion that sort of thing - they want the industry to do well. They want people to take notice of what the industry is doing, most are very supportive and whether it's their taste in music is irrelevant. I haven't had any run-ins with any of them."

Shania's peers should indeed be indebted to her - The Woman In Me peaked at #5 on U.S. pop charts and had a marathon 114 week reign on country charts including 29 weeks at #1.

Shania was eventually usurped by a younger woman - LeAnn Rimes, then 13.

Ms Rimes debut disc Blue topped the charts for 27 weeks before falling to an album by yet another younger woman - Unchained Melody/The Early Years (the disc she recorded when she was 11).

"Until I come up with a new album I hope more young women like LeAnn Rimes come on and keep the industry alive and kicking," Shania says, "I hope the genre is still going strong when I bring out my new album - you really want the genre to stay strong."

Such sentiments should not be lost on Australian radio - it never had the plot.

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