Couple buy into history

FLOCKING IN: Crowds in Whangamomona for republic day.
FLOCKING IN: Crowds in Whangamomona for republic day.

The new owners of a hotel at the edge of east Taranaki are basking in its rural serenity.

Richard and Vicki Pratt have traded in Auckland's rat race for the unforgiving hills of Whangamomona.

Touted as the most remote country hotel in New Zealand, the Pratts believe it will be well worth their journey.

"We didn't want a pub, as such, we wanted something that was a tourist destination," Mr Pratt said.

"Something that had a local community with it."

Mr Pratt, who spent years working in the construction industry, believed the tiny town was on the cusp of a tourism boom which they planned to nurture.

"Everyone we talked to before we moved here had a story about Whangamomona, whether it was four-wheel drive clubs, cycling or the rail trail.

"This place is a sleeping giant waiting to wake up, I think."

However, the former Drury residents have no illusions about just how much hard yakka was ahead of them.

"It's one thing to work in a hotel, it's another thing to manage it," he said.

"There is a lot to an old building and it's the unknowns around that which will be our focus."

Mrs Pratt was the driving force behind the purchase of the 102-year-old building, and believes her rural upbringing in Otorohanga will help her deal with the change of pace.

"It was an opportunity we couldn't pass up."

She said keeping in touch with her five children was proving to be a bit of a challenge.

"We are so used to picking up a cellphone to call family, now it's two hills over before we get a signal - which isn't always a bad thing."

Although exactly how the pair will add their own twist to the iconic building is yet to be seen, they plan to enlist a retired architect, staff and the community to help flesh out their ideas.

"We see an opportunity for biking groups, both push and motor, to create another tier of accommodation.

"We want to make it feel a bit more homely."

Although only a week on the job, they see their tenure as just another step in the town's long history.

"We are just holding the history for the next person.

"Even if you are farming 5000 acres, you are only on it until the next guy comes along."

Taranaki Daily News