His­tory fas­ci­nates Ge­off

Matamata Chronicle - - News - By LAURA MCLEAY

Ge­off Ernst steps into Rose Bros Ltd Gen­eral Store in Ti­rau. It’s 1904. It has every­thing from a nee­dle to an an­chor. The only dif­fer­ence is, noth­ing here is for sale.

The store, which is just one of the many ex­hibits at the Ti­rau Mu­seum is a replica of the orig­i­nal Rose Bros store which ser­viced peo­ple in Ti­rau from 1904 to 1983.

Owner Mr Ernst set up the mu­seum 40 years ago and still has vis­i­tors from all over the world stop in to see his col­lec­tion.

Last month he had a group of car en­thu­si­asts from the Te Awa­mutu Cus­tom and Rod Club stop by. More than 80 Amer­i­can cars cov­ered his lawn as they had lunch and took a tour of the premises. ‘‘I love to col­lect all things weird and won­der­ful,’’ Mr Ernst said.

Dis­played tidily in two large rooms mea­sur­ing 3962sqm (13,000sq ft), it is one of New Zealand’s largest per­sonal col­lec­tions.

Tins of lol­lies from Eng­land still in their pack­ets, a one hun­dred tril­lion dol­lar note from Zim­babwe, the old­est mo­bile Avery trac­tor in New Zealand, old Mata­mata court house crim­i­nal doc­u­ments and many more items add to the dis­play.

His fas­ci­na­tion with col­lectibles be­gan when he was a cu­ri­ous and ad­ven­tur­ous 11 year old. One day while fish­ing in the river he came across the cham­pion vine­gar bot­tle that kick-started his hobby.

‘‘Now the thrill is in the chase and get­ting that rare piece home and part of the game is then up­grad­ing. I can’t help my­self – wher­ever I go I am al­ways look­ing for more stuff,’’ he said.

Mr Ernst has lived on his farm just south of Ti­rau, site of the mu­seum, for the ma­jor­ity of his life farm­ing honey bees.

‘‘ I sold honey by the sum­mer and ar­ranged the mu­seum and col­lected things dur­ing the win­ter. I would go gold min­ing on the West Coast and al­ways come back with a car load of stuff,’’ he said.

Mr Ernst never in­tended to start up the mu­seum but his pri­vate col­lec­tion soon be­came a phe­nom­e­non to those who heard about it.

‘‘Many peo­ple were ask­ing to see it so I had the bright idea of start­ing up my own mu­seum and mak­ing an earn­ing out of what I en­joyed do­ing,’’ he said. ‘‘There are so many sto­ries here, it is un­real. Ev­ery piece has a story.’’

Among the thou­sands of items, he still has a favourite. The sin­gle-cylin­der Ger­man Lanz Bull­dog trac­tor which orig­i­nated from Can­ter­bury in 1937 is his ‘‘big toy’’ and will re­main so while it is still in use.

Back in time: Ti­rau Mu­seum owner Ge­off Ernst in a replica of the Rose Bros. Ltd Gen­eral store that used to be in Ti­rau.

Here to visit: Old and rare cars from the Te Awa­mutu Cus­tom and Rod Club are just one of the groups to stop in for a visit in the past month.

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