GISBORNE & THE EAST COAST
PEACEFUL & MAJESTIC
Amidst driving rain, booming thunder and forked lightning, I headed through the Waioeka Gorge, passing by a barefooted survivalist family of four, all decked out in identical camouflage fleece before slowing for yet another bout of road works. I am yet to fathom exactly why the powers that be continually think it is logical to dig up main roads during the peak holiday season. Listed as New Zealand’s longest scenic reserve, the gorge offers an eco-friendly smorgasbord of signposted sites to either camp or park up the motor home overnight. The reserve at Manganuku looked especially inviting. The gorge features numerous rest areas, comprising of river stone built features, benches, tables and information boards. With mist rising off the ranges, the gorge projected an almost mystical quality. Cell phone coverage was non-existent as were radio frequencies for the best part of an hour. I wondered how long the drivers of several broken down vehicles that I passed, had waited before being reconnected with civilisation.
Rock falls are a common occurrence in this neck of the woods and several treacherous sections were heavily fortified by concrete barriers and sturdy, steel cage-like fencing. I spied an enormous tree trunk dangling precariously between two stumps on a steep cliff-like verge, recently cleared by a forestry gang.
The tiny frontier like settlement of Matawai is situated pretty much halfway between Opotiki and Gisborne. The whole place was closed by 6pm midweek upon my arrival with the exception of the pub. Despite its isolated location, Matawai is an attractive place. An enormous anchor outside the Matawai Gallery was all the excuse I needed to engage in a spot of tiki touring.
I was surprised by the bracing climate. It felt like snow was imminent which came as something of a surprise considering it was early January. Having left home four hours earlier in sweltering heat, I was questioning my decision to pack lightly for this Eastland adventure.
After several snapshots of the misplaced maritime artefact, I trundled across to the Matawai Hotel. This iconic, country watering hole houses a most peculiar natural phenomenon, the meticulously preserved double headed lamb!
Stepping inside the old boozer is like going back in time. An old timber bar which runs nearly half the length of the premises is adorned by plaques bearing the names of locals, each with their own stool. The friendly but slightly eccentric bar maid kept busy, boxing up Xmas decorations.
I overheard two locals commenting on the arctic like conditions outside. “Should have snuck a woollen singlet under my shirt,” one old timer mumbled. “We might have to start ordering a warm beer,” the other cackled.
Back behind the wheel, after cranking up the thermostat I headed for Gisborne. After passing beneath a steel bridge used to move sheep to and from the wool shed, the land gradually flattened. Vineyards and orchards heralded a new landscape while welcoming blue skies beckoned on the horizon.
Upon arriving in Gisborne, an unexpected natural emergency was in progress. A landslide burst a main water pipe, seriously jeopardising the city’s infrastructure. The Quality Hotel Emerald was enforcing entirely reasonable precautionary measures to conserve water which I was more than happy to abide by. Whatever it took, I was willing to help out. Brushing my teeth with merlot was a sacrifice I was quite prepared to make.
GISBORNE REMINDS ME in many ways of a bustling Northern Queensland coastal town with its palm lined, spacious streets and hot sun.
While exploring the main street I ducked into Muir’s bookshop, one of a select group of independent literary specialists still plying their trade in New Zealand. Not only does Muir’s possess an amazing selection of quality publications (including NZTODAY of course) downstairs, they also run a bustling café on the second floor, with a balcony overlooking Gladstone Street. Their food was top notch, and my iced coffee was strong enough to keep me wired for the remainder of the morning.
One place to avoid if possible on Fridays is the ANZ Bank, not because there is anything wrong with the excellent service that the staff provide, rather the bank’s popularity meant an enormous queue of loyal customers snaked right out the front door and onto the street. “It’s always like this,” one of the tellers cheerily informed me. “Even when there are twelve of us working here it’s busy as.”
Smash Palace located in the heart of Gisbornes industrial sector is a bar with a difference; a place where businessmen wearing suits drink alongside black leather clad bikies. Everybody is welcome at Smash Palace. It’s not every day that you can wander into a licensed premises to find burnout marks in the middle of the floor from a Harley Davidson.
“Womble” who has worked on the door at Smash Palace for nearly 25 years, revealed the business was once a wine bar, but not for long. It now resembles a wrecker’s yard with all types of vehicle parts and twisted steel hanging from every nook and cranny. There is even a full size plane hanging above the garden bar.
Womble is a rather large human being. Despite my 108kg, I felt like a small child while standing alongside the big fella. Anyone who has worked the door for a quarter of a century must have endured some torrid situations.
The former soldier just shrugged his massive shoulders before admitting, “I’ve picked up one or extra two holes in my head over the years. But I’ve always loved working here. The staff and patrons are just like one big happy family.”
Womble is a lovely bloke. He spent most of the evening stationed on the front door with a cup of coffee and cigarette in tow next to his Harley which was in immaculate condition.
Smash Palace was gearing up for one of its much awaited annual events. Eleven heavy metal bands would be playing (the next day January 11th) between 11am and 11pm. Womble was eagerly anticipating a busy day at the office.
MENG FOON IS NOT YOUR USUAL mayor. The son of Chinese immigrants, young Meng became fluent in Maori and English from a young age while growing up in Gisborne and working in the fields for his families’ market garden business. Now in his fifth term as Mayor, the hugely popular 54 year old believes that New Zealanders will vote for the best person for the job, irrespective of a candidate’s ethnicity.
“When I first ran for council I wondered if people would elect a Chinese person. I found that Kiwis will actually choose the person that will best represent and serve them. It’s no different from you choosing the best plumber at home. It’s exactly the same with the mayor.”
It became immediately obvious that Meng has a great love for his community and it’s clearly a two way street. During lunch a local lady whose family were soon to shift to Christchurch, stopped by to give Meng a hug, say goodbye and thank him for his years of service.
Meng spends a good deal of his time on the road, travelling throughout the Tai Rawhiti electorate which encompasses 8,355 square kilometres and includes around 46,000 constituents.
His visits include far flung outposts like Matawai, Tiniroto and Motu. “We have an action plan in place,” Meng explains, “to do one township up every year. The beautification makes the people who live there feel part of our region as well. This year it’s Tolaga Bay’s turn. Matawai was done up last year and Te Araroa the year before.”
“Tourism keeps our small towns alive. The Motorhomes all stop to buy an ice cream or a pie. Otherwise the small communities could not sustain a dairy or a petrol station.”
“We live here for lifestyle,” he states “and call this place our paradise, first to see the sun by the grace of Hikurangi,” said the Mayor over lunch. “The beauty about our region on the East Coast is that 70 to 80 per cent of the land is owned by Maori and will stay forever green. This is paradise. We love it here. But I must say the whole of New Zealand is a nice place.”
Being able to speak Te Reo fluently in an area with a large Maori population is an amazing skill for any public figure to possess. Meng was quite reassuring about the daunting task of mastering a new lingo. “I have a love of languages,” said Meng who also speaks Cantonese. “All you need to do is focus on learning one new simple structure a day. That’s all it takes.”
Meng’s view regarding the issue of young people leaving Gisborne is refreshing. “It’s nice to have your family but they’ve got their own minds and careers. It’s quite nice to have my children out as well. It give us a purpose to travel and see them. And when you look at our community, the number of people who have come from other places to join our paradise from school teachers, to doctors, accountants and builders. They’ve all come from somewhere else and have brought with them new ideas and skills.”
“My thoughts are this is a free world. And the world is our home. Some people care more about their roots than others. We all live here for the lifestyle.”
Away from his Mayoral duties, Meng loves spending time with his family, supporting others in business, participating in the community, music (he plays the ukulele) and is a member of the New Zealand Rugby League Board.
“I guess my general philosophy in life is little and often. Nothing is impossible. There is no right or wrong way to live, but I think while you are able, you should live life to the fullest.” I found my meeting with Meng really inspiring.
LATER IN THE AFTERNOON I made my way over to the Cidery. Hamish Jackson, the manager of Bulmer Harvest Ciders, New Zealand’s leading Cider producer, knows a thing or two about apples and cider. He has either been producing or sampling the stuff for a fair portion of his life.
Apples are first picked, pulped, frozen and kept in a cool store before being delivered to the Cidery in Customhouse Street, where they are mixed with a yeast to ferment.
The Cidery produces the award winning Harvest, Scrumpy and Bulmer brands which can be purchased in supermarkets nationwide. Owners Brian and Irene Shanks first experimented with cider in 1988 to make use of fallen fruit after Cyclone Bola. A year after, the couple were in full production mode, selling 5,000 litres. The Cidery is now capable of producing that quantity in a single day. The Shanks currently reside in Virginia where they are spearheading the resurrection of Cider in the United States.
New flavours have recently been concocted to appeal to a different market. Hamish introduced the new range which includes Watermelon & Cucumber and Apple & Ginger. “You just can’t go wrong with cider,” instructed Hamish. “After all an apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
A hilarious ordeal that I must recount (not cider related) was an evening visit to the Odeon Cinema, or “ODear” as we later renamed it.
With the 5:50pm screening of Philomena imminent, the ticket booth manned by a sole operator was struggling to clear the backlog of impatient customers. A changing of the guard which defied belief occurred when a woman clearly in her eighties took over the proceedings behind the counter.
After making it to the confectionary stand, a glum teenager directed us back to the ticket booth, to the theatre’s sole Eftpos machine. For the record I’ve never had an ice-cream with such a thick and hard coating of chocolate.
Upon arriving in Theatre Five, we were surprised to find that Philomena was already underway, at least five minutes before its scheduled start time! Nevertheless I settled into an extremely comfortable seat and set about removing the chocolate coating off my ice cream with a pick axe.
The movie itself was compelling, although the elderly chap who answered his phone (which had an excruciatingly annoying ring tone) and continued his conversation in a booming voice during one pivotal scene, detracted slightly from the moment. Banished to the corridor by his wife, the old fella soon returned only to provide the entire audience with a blow by blow account of his recent call.
In conclusion I thought the movie was excellent and despite a few minor glitches, the Odeon experience is one not to be missed.
Kaiti Hill provides striking views of the city, its beaches and Poverty Bay itself. Walking, running (or driving in my case) to the summit seems to be a popular activity around dusk. The hill was well frequented by budding fitness enthusiasts, loved up couples and a group of teenage girls busy creating an enormous pyramid of recently consumed RTD drink cans.
THE NEXT DAY I WAS FORTUNATE enough to be chaperoned around the region by the one and only Stephan Kellerman, the Executive Chef and 2IC to Stuart Geddes at The Quality Hotel Emerald. A German national who has been in New Zealand now for seven years, Stephan is slightly crazy, definitely eccentric and a whole heap of fun to be around. He found Gisborne after cheffing for the rich and famous in five star hotels all over the world. He has even been responsible for feeding the All Blacks on several occasions who he describes as, “acting like a pack of big boys.”
The Gisborne climate has clearly revitalised Stephan who now lives on the coast just north of Wainui and recently lost 20 kilograms through a change of lifestyle. “One of the gyms here is directly across the road from KFC. You can sit on the chest press machine and watch the chicken being served,” he grins.
“Gisborne is actually an outer city,” he explains. “People here don’t go home after work and sit in their houses, they get out and enjoy the sun and surf.”
‘It’s a great lifestyle here and you can live cheaply. If you are a halfway decent fisherman, you have an abundant food source on your doorstep. Stephan revealed he set himself a challenge of heading up the coast to live off the sea and land for three nights upon turning 40. “On the second day I packed up and drove to the shop. I was so hungry,” he revealed while laughing deliriously.
Although still admitting to missing the speciality breads and sausages of his native Germany, he proudly calls Gisborne home now. Most encouragingly after a slow start, he has now managed to catch 10 crayfish during the last two years.
Stephan fired up his Range Rover and spent a day showing me the sites. We visited the Gisborne Farmers’ Market where he introduced me to the city’s premier DJ who hails from Brazil and Englishman Andy Nimmo, owner of the award winning Hihi Wines.
At the base of Kaiti Hill I was shown a monument commemorating Cook’s Landing which is now surrounded by the bustling port and an obscure looking rock in the surf which Stephan said defines the boundary between neighbouring tribes (or iwi) Ngati Porou and Tairawhiti.
After being shown the near vertical steps leading to the summit of Kaiti and joking with Stephan about how often he scales them, we headed out of town to enjoy the clean, green oasis of Grays Bush. Back in the day, the vast majority of Poverty Bay’s 30,000 acre flats were covered in forest. Today the twelve acres of Grays Bush (or 24 rugby fields according to the sign) is like an island surrounded by a “sea of developed land”.
LATER WE VISITED MATAWHERO Wines just 10 minutes south of Gisborne city. The vineyard was established in 1968 and is currently owned by Richard and Kirsten Searle. The couple has worked tirelessly to redevelop the fifteen acre estate which now hosts private functions, live music and weddings.
After a tour of the buildings, including a trip to the cellar, Kirsten produced a paddle built from old oak barrels carrying five wines for tasting with a cheese board. Thankfully she also provided a novice like myself with detailed notes describing the characteristics of each drop.
On our way home we stopped to photograph the nearby Matawhero Church which still features on the label of each bottle, before finishing the day sampling a bottle back at the hotel.
THE POVERTY BAY CLUB has made huge strides since 1974, the year it permitted women in to frequent the salubrious surroundings with their male counterparts. Forty years on, this magnificent building houses ten separate businesses, including Café 1874.
I would go so far as to say that the Eggs Benedict at Café 1874 is the BEST breakfast I have eaten. And be warned, if you are game enough to order their BIG BREAKFAST which consists of six tomatoes, hash browns spinach, chunky toast, mushrooms, poached eggs and a heap of bacon, your work will be cut out. They offer a smaller version for a good reason. I do reckon that Wes Davies (owner of SW Media) would enjoy the challenge!
The new owners of Café 1874 are no strangers to the hospitality industry. The have recently taken over the business with a string of successful local eateries under their belt
Next door to Café 1874 is the Dome, a 21st century style cinema in stark contrast to the old school fare of The Odeon. Moviegoers at the Dome are able to stretch out on giant bean bags (couples are able to join two together for a cuddle), while snacking on pizza and sampling an array of refreshments.
Heading out of Gisborne I pulled in at Matakori to watch the national surfing champs in progress where I met a bloke named Dougal with a rather eye catching 1950s takeaway caravan named the Fat Crab. I didn’t sample any of Dougal’s wares (his speciality is a Chia Seed and Oyster Omelete) but I had to ask him about the eye catching graphics.
“The crab and the octopus were hand painted,” he revealed. “We gave the crab a gold tooth. Then the octopus got an earring and things started getting interesting.” Dougal recently finished another business interest, applied for a hawker’s license from the council and now cooks his way up and down the coast. “Kiwis still love hot dogs and chips,” he states. “I sold $1400 worth in four hours’ worth recently. But the tourists passing through are more adventurous and love the chia. It’s going to take off.”
A few minutes further north, Dive Tatapouri runs daily stingray feeding sessions on a shallow reef about 50 metres from their rustic beach hut base. If you’re lucky, kingfish and crayfish will also arrive for some titbits, while you’re out in the ocean, wearing a pair of waders. Chris and Dan Savage own Dive Tatapouri. Their delightful beach shack HQ was formerly a kina and crayfish processing plant. They also offer surfing lessons and for the fearless, shark cage diving trips.
Officially opened in November 1929, the Tolaga Bay wharf provided an integral service for local farmers, although the enormous structure gradually fell into a state of disrepair, (roads had also improved providing a more viable transport option by this stage) and ceased to be used in 1963. A recent five and a half million dollar development project has returned the old girl to her former glory.
Today the wharf is popular with sightseers, recreational fishermen and swimmers game enough to dive bomb into the sparkling Tolaga Bay waters. It was lovely to see both the wharf and the adjoining beach being enjoyed by so many families from all walks of life. There was a lovely vibe. I saw multiple picnics being enjoyed, games of touch with strangers being invited to join in, fathers teaching their young daughters how to boogie board and hikers out in force exploring Cook’s Cove.
ON THE WAY TO RUATORIA, I noticed a giant sow in the middle of a paddock, scratching herself furiously against a rusted out old Datsun.
Ruatoria was pretty much closed the day I visited. Even the iconic Ruatoria Hotel was all locked up, although I’m sure I could hear music playing and the clink of pool balls as I took photos of the dilapidated old building. The wonky second floor balcony and grass growing from the gutters just added further mystique to this magical old pub.
It has been said that East Coasters drink more Steinlager than any other region in New Zealand per head of population. Apparently in Ruatoria they drink it in quart bottles, by the pallet.
Under the gaze of Mt Hikurangi, tiny Ruatoria caught nationwide media attention in the late eighties due to tension between local Rastafarians and the local authorities. Numerous buildings including the Police Station, Fire Station, Court house, Churches and a Marae were torched, police were put on trial for hacking the dreads off one combatant and Rastafarian leader Chris Campbell was tragically gunned down.
Nearby at Tikitiki rests George Nepia, one of the greats of All Black rugby. Nepia toured with the 1924 Invincibles, setting the rugby world alight with his dazzling skills, clever footwork and powerful boot. Nepia is buried in a small Urupa, down the road from the local rugby grounds bearing his name. A uniquely carved tiki holding a rugby ball, complete with silver fern and the name George inscribed on its chest greets those passing through the church gates.
Every little East Coast settlement is quite unique in its own distinct way. At Te Araroa, the town you pass through to visit the East Cape lighthouse (154 metres above sea level, 700 steps), I found a sign reading “Playground: No Horses”. Locals cheerily wave as you pass through their slice of paradise.
PURIRIS COTTAGE OWNED by Graeme and Pauline Summersby, situated close to SH35 on farmland overlooking Hicks Bay, is a stunning location to recharge the batteries. The foreground landscape of lush pasture complete with grazing cattle, a deep aqua coloured ocean and the setting sun are mind blowing.
Originally from Gisborne, the Summersbys have lived and raised their family in Hicks Bay for the last 35 years. Graeme, who has been heavily involved with both Hicks Bay and East Coast rugby for untold seasons, is employed by a local contractor clearing roads in the forests while Pauline works close by for the East Coast Manuka Company. If that isn’t enough, they also run cattle and goats, keep chickens, bees, grow Protea flowers commercially and operate their boutique B&B.
Over a hearty homemade beef lasagne, we discussed the couple’s life at Hicks Bay. “Travelling is part and parcel of living on the coast,” says Pauline. “If you want to play golf you need to travel an hour each way. That’s just the way it is. If you go nowhere you go nowhere.”
“Our kids live in Auckland, Wellington and Feilding. It’s always wonderful to see them but we need to set aside two days just for travelling each time we make a trip,” says Graeme. “I don’t mind though,” adds Pauline. “It’s nice to do some shopping on the way!”
Playing rugby on the coast is no different. I remember watching rugby on the coast once while researching for a book I was writing. A young Hicks Bay player broke his arm during a hard fought tussle against Tokararangi and then had to endure a three hour trip to Gisborne Hospital. “We also have players who live and work in Gisborne come back up here to play for their clubs every Saturday,” said Graeme.
Success in life on the coast is not measured by what type of car you drive or what sort of label clothing you may have stashed in your wardrobe. Loyalty and self-reliance are highly valued traits. There are no state-of- the-art gymnasiums here to prove your strength or durability. Being able to hunt, fish and provide for your whanau and community is the true test of manhood.
Just before Christmas, Tyrone Delamere, the Hicks Bay captain and Ngati Porou East Coast rugby identity called into the Summersby homestead to drop off a leg of wild venison, which he and Graeme then hung up on the back deck and went to work boning out together.
It was a real pleasure to spend an evening with the Summersbys, such a welcoming, humble and hardworking couple who no doubt will cringe at the length I have taken to describe them. “There are others far more deserving and interesting than us living around here,” commented Graeme during dinner. BEFORE HEADING FOR Te Kaha I had to backtrack slightly to drop the cottage key off to Pauline who was at work. I was lucky enough to get a guided tour of the East Cape Manuka Factory, Visitors Centre & Café from Director Mark Kerr.
East Coast based Manuka Enterprises has recorded exponential growth in recent years. Scientists have found the local Manuka possesses specific properties which separates it from other species grown around the country. Manuka Honey as a natural remedy is hugely popular throughout China, Japan and Singapore while the therapeutic benefits of Manuka Oil are favoured by European countries.
After being cut, baled, mulched, steamed, condensed, extracted, tested, refined, bottled and packaged by a local workforce of around 30 individuals, 90 per cent of the East Cape Manuka product is exported overseas.
The whole operation is entirely sustainable with bushes being trimmed and left to rejuvenate while local farmers are now paid to grow blocks of Manuka on their properties. Mark also estimates five to six million dollars’ worth of payouts were awarded within the East Coast region alone last year to land owners for keeping hives on their property.
Two aspects of East Coast life have notably improved since my first visit here; the quality of the roads and housing. I vividly remember seeing scores of shacks and caravans with lean to’s attached as I passed through these parts thirteen years ago. Incidentally most of the houses sported SKY satellite dishes on their roofs. I doubt many of the inhabitants had council consent to build their rickety dwellings. Very few of the substandard home builds remain, in their place stand more modern dwellings.
Heading towards Te Kaha I overtook a boy driving a quad bike, with another even smaller young fella (quite possibly his brother) riding shotgun beside him with Dad overseeing their actions. Never too young to learn!
And whose voice did I find myself listening to while heading north and tuning into Radio Ngati Porou?
Meng of course! His korero was not only passionate and informative, he also had me in stitches while instructing the importance of cleaning the catch tray and burners of your BBQ, his doctor’s instructions not to eat too many takeaways, his listing of every food outlet in Tokomaru Bay and his plea for constituents to phone the council and ask for a RFS (Request for Service Form) if any work needed doing in their area.
Once again Meng was in excellent form, full of grace and good humour. He is so down to earth, quick witted and sounds just like one of the boys. He flicked between Maori and English seamlessly and often during his two hour slot on 105.3fm.
A comment I heard time and time again while talking to a wide variety of people from Gisborne to the East Cape, was that Meng truly is the mayor for the people.
Another gem of a spot on the way to Te Kaha is Waihau Bay, which many will recognise as a location from the movie ‘Boy’. It was here that I witnessed the most incredible display of driving.
While reversing an old Ford tractor with his foot hard down on the accelerator pedal, a young bloke effortlessly backed a huge trailer around a tight corner on his first attempt. He then roared straight down the ramp squeezing between two recreational boaties at the water’s edge with pin point precision. After hooking the winch to a large commercial vessel, he jumped back in the driver’s seat, hooning off up the road with ten tonnes of fishing boat in tow, all in the space of about twenty seconds. I was completely spellbound.
THE FINAL NIGHT OF MY HIKOI was spent in the Bay of Plenty coastal settlement of Te Kaha.
By this stage I was in need of some TLC. The Te Kaha Beach Resort proved just the tonic with million dollar ocean views from my second floor balcony. Having been on the road for the best part of a week, the washing machine and drier in my bathroom meant I could once again slip into clean clothes the next morning.
The Te Kaha Beach Resort also includes a modern bar frequented by locals and travellers alike, a restaurant, café, shop and pool. While investigating the bar I found a series of framed black and white historical photographs of Te Kaha which included (Greenies please turn away now) several intriguing snapshots of whole whale carcasses being processed on the adjacent beach.
The staff at the resort were wonderful, including the Russian chef whose duck leg main course was first class! The meat just fell off the bone.
The Te Kaha Beach Resort would be a perfect overnight stop, particularly if you are travelling with kids and making your way down the coast towards Gisborne. The pool complex will keep youngsters amused for hours while parents can unwind and supervise from the balcony.
Resort manager Jade Bidois and his wife Erana arrived in Te Kaha from Auckland after working in the Bangkok hotel industry. It didn’t take long for the couple to adapt to their new surrounds. “I now have large a vege garden at home, which we both eat from regularly. I love getting out on the boat for a fish when we have time. Te Kaha is an amazing place, you can’t beat this view,” he smiled.
The Resort comes complete with a helicopter pad, which a visiting American family annually use while staying here during the Rhythm and Vines festival. Waking up to hear the ocean roaring below with spectacular ocean views from my bed was a wonderful memory to savour before heading home.
This region’s relative isolation creates close knit communities. Those who live here know how to make their own fun, support each other and enjoy the great outdoors.
I lost count at the number of horses I saw frolicking on the beach, not to mention the easy going locals who waved or winked as I made my way up the coast. The kai was wonderful and the local grapes weren’t too bad either. By the time I got home I looked like a bullfrog who had swallowed a sheep. The coasters I met were an extremely friendly, resilient and adaptable bunch who have the most amazing backyard, something they have every right to feel extremely proud of.
QUALITY HOTEL EMERALD I couldn’t fault the Quality Hotel Emerald for its central location, service, secure free parking, cleanliness or the quality and size of my suite. What sets this establishment apart is the friendliness of its staff. The morning greetings were always sincere, the reception and waitresses genuinely cared that I was enjoying every aspect of my stay.
All guests, whether they’re visiting dignitaries or families on their hard earned annual holiday, receive the same level of attention and courtesy.
General Manager Stuart Geddes displays an infectious enthusiasm for his vocation and a knack for making his customers feel right at home. The Zimbabwean, in unison with his German Executive Chef Stephan Kellerman, strives to create a family like environment with their loyal staff.
This approach also extends to the wider Gisborne community. The Hotel support and sponsor a local Kapa Haka group.
The hotel’s philosophy is values driven which includes adhering to green principles. As a result of their efforts, the Hotel was awarded the prestigious Qualmark Silver Enviro Award in 2013.
At a significant financial shortfall, Geddes made a courageous decision after a recent landslide threatened Gisborne’s water supply. The GM closed his hotel’s restaurant for evening meals, restricted availability of the pool, distributed paper cups in guest rooms to reduce dishwashing costs and politely asked the guests to consider monitoring their personal water use.
“We want to be a real part of the Gisborne community,” explains Geddes. “So cutting back on our water use during the emergency was one way we can prove how committed we are to our city.”
Walking the walk in a time of crisis sums up this hotel’s fundamental ethos to a tee. “The cornerstone of any business is being committed to its community’s needs,” says Geddes who has become a staunch supporter of his newly adopted region. “When I go to Auckland now I always ask why Gisborne wines aren’t on the menu,” he smiles. “After all, one third of New Zealand’s best wine is produced here.”
Tolaga Bay Wharf.
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Meng Foonon and me.
Womble and me.
Muir’s bookshop and cafe.
Gladstone Street and Clock.
Gisborne Port, Kaiti Hill.
Gladstone Street Carving.
Matawhero Wines. Right Stephan showing off his page in FEAST cookbook.
Captain Cook, Kaiti Hill.
Dougal and Fat Crab.
Tolaga Bay Wharf, and wharf jumpers.
GraveTikitikichurch. George Nepia .
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Pauline and Graeme Summersby Hicks Bay.
East Cape Manuka Company Manuka oil being extracted. Room with a view Te Kaha Beach Resort.
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