Eco-touring in Taranaki
The playground of Taranaki holds an ever-growing list of things to see and do for the whole family – with a green twist.
The wind-swept fields and hedgerows in rural Taranaki look remarkably like the west coasts of The British Isles and Ireland, until you turn around and see the mountain and its thick native skirt – an iconic Kiwi image. Because it reveals itself so rarely, each time you glimpse its perfect, conical peak it seems to have grown in stature.
It’s the focal point around a burgeoning scene of ecominded businesses, service industries and individuals congregating here, all keen to preserve the area as a backto-nature Garden of Eden.
Of course, there are people who have known the secret for years. The movie released last year by local film maker Clive Neeson, which featured 45 years of (mainly) local adventures, wasn’t called The Last Paradise for nothing.
Then there’s Michael and Linda Lawley, whose off-the-grid property bristles with enough solar panels, windmills, hydro turbines and batteries to run not only their household, but a large guest lodge and a four-employee business. They make more of the aforementioned mini hydro turbines, which are now powering properties around the globe. Michael also runs Eco Innovation, a company that gives advice about renewable solutions and sells everything needed to generate your own renewable energy.
Their property is thick with native trees, free-range chickens, vegetable and berry gardens, livestock, pets and impressive views, on the right day, of Mt Taranaki. It’s a paradise for children too, with canoes, a flying fox and bush tracks to explore. Perfect for those who like their accommodation with a generous side of fun and education.
“With more surf breaks per kilometre than anywhere south of Hawaii, the Taranaki coastline is more of a surfer’s paradise than that eponymous wannabe across the ditch.”
Of course no eco tour of Taranaki is complete without an experience in that expansive ocean. With more surf breaks per kilometre than anywhere south of Hawaii, the Taranaki coastline is more of a surfer’s paradise than that eponymous wannabe across the ditch.
If you’re nervous about it, or have never tried surfing, get in touch with Gary Bruckner, a Californian-turnedKiwi, who brings his 45 years of playing in the waves to the TaraWave Surf School in Oakura, just south of New Plymouth on the surf highway. He can lie on the back of your board while you skim shoreward – whether you’re five years old or 65. He’s particularly skilled at allaying the fears of little children, who may be intimidated by the waves All equipment is provided – all you need is your togs. By now you’ll be ready for another rest, and the ecoconscious and/or discerning travellers will invariably find themselves checking into the Ahu Ahu Beach Villas, perched on the cliff above the sea just 20 minutes southwest of New Plymouth.
Run by David and Nuala Marshall, the beach villas are a marvel of what can be built with recycled materials, featuring 15-metre hardwood salvaged wharf piles, local retired power poles and 100-year-old French clay tiles and classic native timber lattice windows saved from the demolished Stratford Hospital. Combine that with undulating plaster walls, hand-crafted joinery and Hundertwasser-inspired bottle windows, and the result is stunning, endorsed upon its completion with a sustainable architecture award. There’s a double bed in the main downstairs area, and the kids will be happy in the mezzanine floor above, or roving around the expansive grounds. There’s even a firepit out front which the guests can’t help but congregate around.