Let's live in...Te Kauwhata

KEVIN NORQUAY
Last updated 07:00 26/08/2014
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DOWNTOWN: So it's no main city drag, but that's the appeal of country living!

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WINE NOT: Te Kauwhata has been the centre of a wine growing area for over a century.

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Nestled in rolling dairy farmland in the north Waikato, Te Kauwhata is tucked away just off bustling State Highway 1, which connects Auckland and Hamilton - those cities are about an hour away in each direction.

Nicknamed "TK" it is home to about 1300 people, who live surrounded by dairy farms, dry stock holdings, horticulture, a massive swamp, and the unusually coloured Lake Waikare.

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Why should I move there?

Perhaps you work in Auckland and Hamilton, and want to relax in the country when you're not slaving to earn a dollar. Houses are much, much cheaper too, and you needn't have a townhouse crammed in on your back section.

Perhaps you're young and love sport -- TK is bursting at the seams with facilities. Perhaps you're old and looking for a retirement home, in which case Aparangi Village might be just the place to spend your sunset years, and pay way less than in Auckland. Aparangi has had unhealthy headlines lately, much to the distress of the town, after one resident was alleged to have fallen 15 times during her stay.

Maybe one of your rellies is doing time just up the road in Springhill Corrections Facility, so TK offers the chance to live near them.

If you're a petrol head you might crave a sniff of the fumes in the air from Hampton Downs race track, the Meremere drag races, or the V8s at Pukekohe.

As well as being not far from the big cities, living in TK gives you a good head start over the masses when you're heading to the beaches of Coromandel or the Bay of Plenty, and for the keen golfer there's Waikare, a gem of a course on the town's outskirts.

TK's got all the shops you need for day-to-day life, and West's Trading Co has got to be seen to be believed -- it's a treasure trove of the unexpected and the necessary, in fact "everything you want, from a needle to an anchor".

It's been the centre of a wine growing area for over a century. A government research station is still in use as a cellar door for Babich wines. Match the wines with eels, a local delicacy processed in the town.

Why it's not for everyone

It is an hour from the big cities, and even with expressways you can't just pop down and see a movie. With one resident in six old enough to be living in the rest home, some might find it a bit too quiet, a bit too isolated. Forget about fine dining or malls. And you need to like fog to live in TK, winters can be damp and dank, summers too humid. When it's warm it pays not to be of the blood type mosquitoes find tasty, or you'll be slapping your way through summer. Lake Waikare has lost its sparkle, at times being turned pink by algae. It's in a bad way, as it's infested by koi carp (nasty invasive fish) as well.

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What's the transport like?

It's hopeless. No taxis. Buses don't stop there, the railway station just waves as trains go by. The Rural Women's Community Car is around to help those who need it, and there's the occasional (about once a fortnight) bus from Aparangi to Pukekohe for shopping excursions.

Schools

TK has a primary school known to have turned out the odd journalist -- take that phrase however you like --  and a College, which runs from years 7 through to year 13. If you're a toddler you're in luck, since there are three early childhood learning centres.

Amenities

As well as the aforementioned golf course, rugby and football fields abound, squash courts, netball courts, and cricket pitches. At the College, there is a community fitness centre with gym and swimming pool, and an outdoor bowling green. The pony club celebrated its 50th anniversary this year, with bobbing for crunchie bars and barrel racing on the agenda.

Aparangi Retirement Village has a mix of large individual houses, apartments, flats and a care unit. It's walking distance from the main street, where there's a supermarket, liquor outlet, cafes take-aways, a doctor, pharmacy, tavern, hair salons, vet, and an op shop.

There's a library too, one which won an architectural award for its innovative design, and a busy Lions club.

Where to eat

The tavern does evening meals, and Rangiriri Hotel is just down the road. As for the local  cafes, look for the one with all the trucks parked outside -- that's got to be a good sign, truckies love a good feed.

Best buy

It's nice around the golf course, or on one of the subdivisions up Blunt Rd on the northern side of town is nice. It's not a big place, so the choices are limited, but you can get a nice modern three-bedroom home with a fair-sized section for less than $400,000. Have a look at this for a bargain, or this if you're cashed up and would like to impress people with a swimming pool

Notables from Te Kauwhata

Most famous was Trevor Cooper, the supermarket worker who won $26 million in Lotto. Oddly, he doesn't live there anymore.

Businessman and former All Black Joe Karam does, and his friend David Bain did briefly after he was released from jail. Graham Stevenson won a New Zealand golf title and horsemen abound, with Olympic showjumper Bruce Goodin, and racehorse trainer Tony Cole both locals.

International sevens rugby union player Waisiki Masarewa lived in TK, as did Erin Simpson, host of the TV2 show The Erin Simpson Show, and Michelin star chef Russell Pirrit (he's overseas now, not behind a stove in the TK cafes). Mixed Martial Arts fighter, James Te Huna, also grew up in Te Kauwhata.

What the locals say

"It's central, it's only 40 minutes from here to Thames, and not much further to Auckland or to The Base Shopping Centre in Hamilton," Isobel Kelly.

"It's the community -- we've lived here 50 years now, and we know lots of people, and Phil (my husband) is in the Lions Club," Fay Smart.

- Stuff

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