Heir needed for whitebait throne
For sale: A slice of classic Kiwi life
If you’re the sort of can-do Kiwi who’s always up for a challenge, then how about swapping your city home for a whole town – and safeguarding a classic piece of New Zealand history into the bargain? With today’s eye-watering property prices, $1.5 million doesn’t buy you a mansion if you’re within city limits, but in the Taranaki whitebait paradise of Mo¯kau, that price – or thereabouts – will buy you the lion’s share of the town’s businesses. Under the hammer are The Whitebait Inn, which is owned by Clare and Dave Harding, for $950,000, and the Mo¯kau Butchery, which has been owned by Graham and Gloria Putt for the past 29 years, and is for sale for a negotiable $450,000. So far, seems simple. But actually those two businesses are far more than their names suggest. The Whitebait Inn comes with a campground and shop and is the town’s de facto takeaway, restaurant and post office. The owner also has the responsibility for supplying the courier who delivers mail and a top-up of milk, eggs and bread to remote farms and homesteads twice a week. ‘‘You have to be prepared to work, and that can be a bit of a stumbling block, but it’s certainly a very good financial business,’’ Clare says. And in whitebait season, it gets busy. Real busy. The sort of busy that means they make around 100 fritters a day, handing them out to visitors at $18.50 a pop. ‘‘The key is plenty of whitebait because people will tell you if there’s not,’’ Clare laughs. Over at the butchery – which, true to local form, also deals with homekill and whitebait – the Putts want to hand the $200k-a-year business on to spend more time with their grandkids. ‘‘We’re tired,’’ Gloria says. ‘‘But what a place to live,’’ Graham says, adding that he really wants to hand over to someone who can continue to be a mainstay of the community. ‘‘I’d like to sell to a butcher for the community. The farmers need us and would be lost without us.’’ Sure, there are a few concerns that the $200m Mt Messenger bypass on State Highway 3 might drive down visitor numbers, but generations of folk have been used to using Mo¯kau as a stop-off for snacks, a quick stretch and maybe a swift ice cream. Margaret Whittaker, who’s lived in Mo¯kau for 58 years with husband Ian, fears the bypass might affect that passing custom. ‘‘It will shorten your distance from New Plymouth, and you’re not ready for a cup of tea after 45 minutes.’’ But 65-year-old Mark Barclay is more bullish. He arrived in January and within a month had been voted chairman of the local museum. Not surprisingly he’s only got a good, positive message for anyone thinking about trading a city life to become talk of the town. ‘‘Mo¯kau is one of New Zealand’s bestkept secrets. I don’t miss Auckland at all. There’s so much potential here.’’
Clare Harding and her husband Dave , who run The Whitebait Inn, plan to retire to Raglan. The Mo¯ kau river mouth is a popular fishing and whitebaiting spot. Graham and Gloria Putt have owned the Mo¯ kau Butchery for almost 30 years and now want to retire.