Seaside town pleads: ‘Give us more housing... bring us more people’
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‘Give us more housing... bring us more people’
The future growth and prosperity of a picturesque coastal township hangs in the balance as local residents and business owners pin their hopes on a new housing sub-division for growing the community’s population and adding a new economic vitality and vibrancy to the settlement.
Idyllic Awakino – mid-way between Te Kuiti and New Plymouth on the west coast of the North Island - is a small settlement of less than 100 people – serviced by the stereotypical ‘small New Zealand town’ amenities such as a pub, and petrol station which doubles up as a supermarket.
The town’s population has been relatively static over the past few decades – with many residents either dying off from old age or moving out of the area to find employment.
However, a 45-property subdivision overlooking the calm seaside town promises to bring in scores of new residents to the town... and some much needed economic relief. Local businesses in the settlement can’t wait for the new 45-site Horizon Views development to take off.
Awakino ‘personality’ and owner of the Awakino Hotel, Craig Morrison, said that 20 years ago he would have described the town as “chugging along nicely.”
“Now it’s turning into a bit of a sleepy hollow,” said Mr Morrison. “A housing subdivision like Horizon Views could bring in a lot of sustainable revenue for the town. First of all you’ve got the contractors and ‘subbies’ bringing in metal for roads, paths and driveways, then laying concrete. When the houses need to be constructed there’s jobs for builders, plumbers, electricians, roofers and landscapers.
“These workers come out to Awakino and stay here for five days during the week – which is good business for the town. They buy their lunches and dinners here, and have a few drinks at night,” he said.
“Then when the homes are complete, the owners come in and have their holidays here, or have their properties rented out – and that brings in much needed revenue for the town if people go fishing for example, or play a couple of rounds of golf. We had a bowling tournament in town recently and every spare house was rented out, so there’s even the option of using these new holiday homes for growing our tourism appeal.
“In my life time – and I’m only in my early 50s – I reckon I’ll see the whole of this coastline dotted with these type of holiday home developments. When they’re carefully planned, like Horizon Views, they can blend in with the landscape and bring economic certainty to the region,” said Mr Morrison.
“I’ve met some of the prospective new owners and they’re just the sort of people Awakino needs. They’re all professional or business couples, some are semi-retired, they have a love for the rural lifestyle and the untouched coastline here, and want to retain the community feel of Awakino.
“For example, I’m a member of the Awakino volunteer ambulance service and we need more volunteers on call. These new residents are just the sort of community-minded people which will help us boost numbers in the volunteer services because they want to feel part of where they live and contribute.”
Mr Morrison hoped that some of the new Horizon View residents would bring a new entrepreneurial spirit to the town – potentially setting up a farmers market, or arts and crafts trail on the route between New Plymouth and Te Kuiti.
Meanwhile, the friendly Awakino Bowling Club is also hoping that it will benefit from the potential arrival of new part-time residents at Horizon Views. With just eight members – most aged in their 60s, 70s and 80s - the club is constantly looking at ways of increasing its player roster…. as well volunteers to help out with duties such as mowing the greens.
Dedicated Awakino Bowling Club president Gail O’Keeffe joined the club in the early 1980s when it had some 25 members, and is now longing for a return to its glory days.
“It would be nice to think that some of the people buying properties in the area would join the club – even if was only as a social member. I could do with some help mowing the lawns,” said Gail O’Keeffe.
“Bowls is a very social and relaxing sport – so maybe if the people coming in to Horizon Views have friends over to visit, they could bring them down to the club for a roll-up. We’re a real friendly bunch at the club and would certainly make them feel welcome.”
Mrs O’Keeffe hoped the holiday homes could also be rented out during the club’s biggest competition – The Whitebait Tournament – which this year attracted 24 teams of four players, from as far away as Tauranga and Wanganui.
Some players booked out the Awakino Hotel for the competition, while others had to stay in nearby towns as there was no other accommodation available in Awakino.
“The Whitebait Tournament is our biggest money-maker for the year. Without it, we just couldn’t survive financially - so it would be nice to see it continue and even to grow,” Mrs O’Keeffe said.
The 45-lot Horizon Views subdivision is being marketed by Bayleys New Plymouth. Real estate sales consultant, Mark Monckton said it was highly encouraging that the new development was being so warmly embraced by the town’s population.
“The community has spoken…. it needs more people. The future of Awakino is reliant on controlled growth by responsible developers with a vested interest in the long-term future of the town and its environment,” Mark Monckton said.
“This subdivision is owned by locals and has been tastefully planned to take into account all environment concerns. Sections have been formed to not only minimise their impact on the surrounding landscape into which they blend, but also to maximise owners’ views of the township and out to sea. And they’re all within walking distance of the pub.”