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Retaining wall has messages for all seasons

EMILY BEAUMONT
Last updated 12:00 14/01/2014

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A Taihape couple may have the most popular billboard on State Highway 1 - and the only things they're peddling are positive sentiments.

This year marks a decade since Vanessa Witt and Toby Schweikert turned a drab retaining wall into a sign for the times, offering seasonal wishes and topical observations. And going by the toots from passing traffic, the messages have found an audience.

After the February 2004 floods, when rain ravaged Micklesons Rd, south of Taihape, where the family live, a retaining wall was built. It was highly visible to motorists from the south.

"The first thing I said was ‘we have to paint that and put white lettering on it'," said Mr Schweikert.

The couple and their children, Oliver, Matthew and Peter, set about brainstorming signage to grace the wall.

Rather than pull out the paintbrushes, they acquired some old "for sale" signs from realtor Denis Robertson and took to them with a craft knife and staple gun, and set about entertaining motorists.

Over the years a variety of messages have appeared and the wall has become an iconic feature on the route.

"A lot of people know the sign and they look out for it. It's a bit of a tourist attraction," said Mr Schweikert.

"We've even seen people stop and take photos," added Ms Witt.

The emphasis is on quality, not quantity, because they are limited to 25 characters.

Their "Happy New Year" message garnered many toots on New Year's Day, while "There is no planet B" was one to get people thinking.

"We like to have a bit of fun," said Ms Witt.

The couple work in their garden beneath the sign, enjoying a permaculture-based lifestyle and selling plants through their business, The Greenhaus.

The family were only too willing to accommodate the National Beekeepers' Association's request to display "Be nice to bees please" during "Bee Aware" month last August.

"It has to be a message that we think is important," Ms Witt said.

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- Manawatu Standard

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