Hokianga stops be­ing a best-kept se­cret

The daily com­ings and go­ings of a he­li­copter sig­nals that change is afoot in the quiet coun­try­side of the Hokianga.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS - With WENDYL NISSEN AWW

The sum­mer hol­i­days mean that many re­mote ar­eas like the one I live in be­come over­run with peo­ple look­ing for sun, beaches and fish­ing. In a mat­ter of days we go from be­ing a sleepy coastal vil­lage to a busy tourist at­trac­tion. Which is very much wel­comed by the peo­ple who run busi­nesses for tourists. For the lo­cals, it can be quite another story.

I’ve only been here five years, so

I’m not a lo­cal by any means. I am, and al­ways will be, an Auck­lan­der be­cause it is a hard rep­u­ta­tion to get rid of. I was born in Auck­land, it’s my tu­ran­gawae­wae – even if I’d rather claim the Hokianga as my marae.

But I’ve been here long enough to know that, come sum­mer, “town” – which com­prises a Four Square, a café, a fish and chip shop and a pub – is best avoided. They are all packed to ca­pac­ity and there’s not a car park to be found. But that is okay, be­cause why shouldn’t the rest of New Zealand and overseas tourists get to en­joy what is one of the most beau­ti­ful ar­eas in the world? I’m more wor­ried about peo­ple like me, who have a touch of Auck­land in them.

Re­cently, my lazy Sun­day read­ing a book on our deck was in­ter­rupted by a he­li­copter fly­ing re­ally close to our house, com­ing and go­ing through­out the day. We never get he­li­copters up this way un­less it’s a quick fly­over by some­one from the Bay of Is­lands keen to see how the other half lives over on the west coast.

The next day it was there again, and the next.

Twenty years ago I would have pre­sumed it was the po­lice scop­ing out some dope plants hid­den in the bush some­where, but the source of this he­li­copter was much less sin­is­ter. It was a per­son from down the road, who had re­cently re­fur­bished their prop­erty, adding a ten­nis court, gar­dens and… a he­li­copter pad.

The guy who does my lawns told me. He looked pretty happy about it. “They’re com­ing, Wendyl,” he grinned. “They’re on their way.”

He was re­fer­ring to rich peo­ple. Ones who can af­ford he­li­copters and like to build un­der­ground bunkers to save them from the apoca­lypse.

I re­cently in­ter­viewed the owner of an Amer­i­can bunker-build­ing firm who told me there were at least 30 bunkers al­ready built in New Zealand, some near where I live.

They have ev­ery­thing you need to live un­der­ground, un­de­tected, for months. The most wor­ry­ing as­pect was that the guy also built holes in the bunker roof so that you could get a gun through and shoot any­one who might come near look­ing for help.

I’m try­ing not to get too wor­ried about the in­flux of the rich, but re­cently I was caught up in a po­lice chase that ended right where I needed to go, just out of Wells­ford, to the north of Auck­land.

I got out of my car and chat­ted to a few peo­ple who said the cops had no im­me­di­ate plans to let us through – un­der­stand­ably, with a gun­man on the loose – and sug­gested I head back across the Kaipara Flats to Wark­worth. We all de­cided to fol­low each other, which was when a man I recog­nised came up to ask what was hap­pen­ing. He was the vet who had put my dog Shirl to sleep. He didn’t recog­nise me, which was fine be­cause he’s a ca­sual kind of guy, a laid-back sur­fie type who dresses in old jeans and hugs the dogs he treats. He, too, has a place up north and I al­ways imag­ined him head­ing out in a beaten-up old ute with a cou­ple of dogs on the back and a surf­board for some down­time at the beach. I sug­gested he fol­low me back to Wark­worth, which he did, and as he hopped into his car I re­alised it was not a ute, but a Maserati!

It would seem they are in­deed com­ing to the north, peo­ple who can af­ford he­li­copters, Maserati, un­der­ground bunkers and good­ness knows what next.

Mean­while, I’ll stick to my simple life­style of bak­ing sour­dough, gar­den­ing and keep­ing chick­ens, and when I pop into town for milk or come across peo­ple on the beach, I’ll do my best to be the ec­cen­tric lo­cal they ex­pect to find in these parts. We could be a dy­ing breed.

“They’re com­ing, Wendyl... They’re on their way.”

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