Beaut suburb is stoked at being NZ's top place

19:25, Dec 12 2010

The Nelson suburb traditionally joked about as being a retirement village is officially New Zealand's favourite place.

Stoke was awarded the honour at the Keep New Zealand Beautiful Awards in Parliament last night, with a large amount of the credit going to one of its former residents, Clint Heine.

Now based in London, Mr Heine started a Facebook page in support of his home suburb and has been encouraging people to vote for it to win.

Keep New Zealand Beautiful spokeswoman Mary Brown said it was the first time a people's choice category had been included and it was really pleasing to see Stoke – a place she's never been to before – win.

"I think the biggest thing for us is seeing how one person can really drum up such big support. That's what we're all about."

Mr Heine was travelling in Italy and could not be reached for comment this morning. However, his friend Mike Kemp, another former Stoke lad living in London, was thrilled by their success.

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"That's amazing," he said.

"We actually started off doing it as a bit of a laugh.

"We just wanted a bit of pride in the local area. It's sandwiched between Nelson and Richmond and often doesn't get the credit it deserves."

Mr Kemp and Mr Heine both grew up in Stoke, attending the local primary school and Nayland College.

Mr Kemp said his mother still taught at Stoke School. "I love spending Christmas in Stoke, unfortunately not this year."

Popular Stoke barber Snippy Richie was "so delighted" by the news this morning.

"It's marvellous, darling," he said. "Stoke is the best place in the world. Everybody's happy here."

Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio said having both Motueka and Stoke gain awards was fantastic. "One of my campaign priorities was putting Nelson on the map and here these two towns have done it on their own."

He wasn't too surprised by Stoke's success, describing it as a "great" area that was home to more than 12,000 people. "It's Nelson's biggest suburb, outside of Richmond. Council has invested quite a bit of money in it recently and council has plans to do a whole lot more there."

Mr Miccio said he would also talk to the council's communications team and Nelson Tasman Tourism to leverage off the awards.

"We'll definitely have a lot to work with."

McCashin's brewery spokeswoman Emma McCashin said the award was brilliant. "Stoked is the obvious word." Mrs McCashin grew up in Blenheim and remembers driving through Stoke as a child and thinking it was "crusty" back then. "Actually living in Stoke is a really nice place. It's not all old people like you might think."

The Nelson Mail