Sleepy town coming of age
Remember when you could stop at an intersection and not have to wait for traffic to pass? Remember when cheese rolls weren’t fancy? Remember when you could wear stubbies to the pub?
Omakau still has this. It might be small and slow-moving but suddenly people are taking notice.
People are looking for a place where the climate is good, their kids are safe, the people are welcoming and which doesn’t have the housing hype of other Central Otago towns.
Omakau - population 260 - is the next boom town.
‘‘It sat dormant for a long time,’’ says Four Square Omakau owner Lloyd Harris.
‘‘[The buzz] has moved back down the [Cromwell] gorge and now it’s coming this way.’’
He’s a proud Omakau man. He’s lived there all his life and belongs to every community group in town.
‘‘The area has changed dra- matically,’’ Harris, 58, says. ‘‘Just about every second house was empty. Now you can’t get a house anywhere.’’
Dairying, sky-rocketing house prices and a burgeoning tourist trade has bought people in, he says.
The town’s only subdivision was built in 2005 and nothing really sold. By the end of last year, all 34 sections were gone.
‘‘It just sat. Then all of a sudden away it went,’’ Harris says.
The Omakau area has always had stunning, big-sky, Grahame Sydney scenery and plenty of outdoor activities. But people tended to see Omakau for what it was, a service town to the railway and local farms.
People have discovered the little gems the area offers, Harris says, the Otago Central Rail Trail and fishing in particular.
‘‘It’s all just right on your back door.’’
Omakau School principal Tracy Richmond has seen her roll grow to 53 pupils this year after sitting in the late 30s for many years.
‘‘We’re enjoying some of the benefit of the boom.’’
Central Otago Mayor Tim Cadogan can see the appeal.
‘‘It’s just a beautiful little spot.‘‘ Despite unprecedented growth in the past couple of years, ‘‘Omakau will still be Omakau’’, Harris says.
‘‘It’s a tight knit community. Everybody looks after everybody.’’
Omakau School pupils from left, Bridget Malcolm, 12, Ciara Patterson, 9, and Judde Paris, 11, love their school and town.