Sleepy town com­ing of age

Central Otago Mirror - - FRONT PAGE - RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN Busi­ness boom­ing, pg 3

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.’’

RHYS CHAM­BER­LAIN

Omakau School pupils from left, Brid­get Mal­colm, 12, Ciara Pat­ter­son, 9, and Judde Paris, 11, love their school and town.

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