Heir needed for white­bait throne

For sale: A slice of clas­sic Kiwi life

Sunday Star-Times - - FRONT PAGE - STEPHANIE MITCHELL

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.’’

ANDY JACK­SON/STUFF

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.

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