Happily riding out the Pegasus 'hiccup'
Canterbury's newest town was meant to be home to thousands of people by this year, but only 300 homes have been built so far. NICOLE MATHEWSON asks residents what they think of living in Pegasus.
"Pegasus is a new town like no other: a home for up to 7000 residents, where lifestyle, fun and entertainment are built into the very fabric of the community."
The sales pitch for Pegasus Town, a new settlement being built from scratch 25 kilometres north of Christchurch, paints a picture of a modern town that is both bustling and peaceful.
When sections for the North Canterbury development first went on sale in 2006, developer Pegasus Town Ltd, founded and part-owned by Bob Robertson, of Wanaka, said the town's lake, primary school and bus services would be running by 2008.
By 2009, the developer planned to have the equestrian centre, supermarket and golf course ready and, by 2012, the yacht club, aquatic centre, shopping mall and emergency services centre were meant to be operating.
Six years later, only 300 homes have been built.
The lake and golf course, a shop and cafe have been completed, but the other promised amenities are not yet in place.
More than 600 people now live at Pegasus. Despite the slow progress, retired couple Jack and Colleen Marris, who moved in 2 1/2 years ago, cannot sing its praises loudly enough.
"It's just so lovely to see something growing. OK, there has been a hiccup, but we're going [forward]," Colleen Marris says.
That "hiccup" refers to the developer going into receivership in August and this week's announcement that the town's golf club, community areas and unsold land have been bought by Todd Property Group.
"Bob Robertson had a vision," Jack Marris says.
"I hope Todds will carry it on. Otherwise, it will become just another real estate [subdivision]."
The couple, originally from the West Coast, were attracted to the new town's layout, community feeling and proximity to their children and grandchildren in other parts of North Canterbury.
"When you grow up in a village, it's so nice to be somewhere where everyone talks to each other," Colleen Marris says.
"So many of the other developments are just streets and houses. This has got a heart and the heart is the lake."
The town works hard to maintain its idyllic image, with rules dictating what type of pets a resident can have, along with the height of their trees, where they can park their cars and what materials they can use to build their homes.
Residents share security duties, taking turns to drive a community patrol car around the quiet streets to deter boy racers and troublemakers.
The rules, LeeAnn Christensen says, keep the town special.
"There are heaps of them [rules], but if you want to live here, to me it means every house is going to look beautiful."
She had long been attracted to Pegasus' small-town community feeling, but was unable to afford a section when the development was first announced.
When the family's Shirley home was red-zoned, they decided to take advantage of discounted section prices and moved into their newly built house in April.
Christensen's parents are now building their own house in the new town too.
"I didn't have to convince them," she says.
Jeanna Riley and her young family hope to move into their new Pegasus home before Christmas.
The Christchurch family bought a section in 2006, but had wanted to wait until the town was more developed before building their home.
"We looked at Rolleston and West Melton and just really, really liked the lake [in Pegasus] and the wetlands and just the general lifestyle."
Commuting to Christchurch is no problem for the family, because Riley works from home and her husband has the use of a company car.
Daniel, 5, is looking forward to attending nearby Waikuku School.
Even news of the receivership failed to diminish the family's enthusiasm for the move.
"Even if it didn't have the shops, and just had the lake and the track, we'd still be living here," she says.
Friends Nadine Barron and Miranda Laney live in Sefton and Christchurch, respectively, but occasionally meet halfway in Pegasus for coffee.
Both regularly bring their young families to the town to picnic and play at the lake.
"You get that feeling of being at the beach, but it's not massively busy. There are not lots of people," Laney says.
"You feel quite safe with your kids and it's somewhere a bit different."
She has considered moving to Pegasus, but is put off by the commuting distance to Christchurch and the fact that the town is still only partly finished.
"I've said in 10 years. You see all the pictures and it looks amazing - what they want it to look like. You can see the potential in it."
Mid-2006: Major earthworks and site contouring begin.
September 2008: The first residents move into the town.
December 2009: The Pegasus Golf & Sports Club, Lake Pegasus, Flat White Cafe and Pegasus General Store open.
August 2012: Developer Pegasus Town Ltd is placed in receivership after defaulting on payments for a $142 million loan.
December 2012: Todd Property Group buys the unsold land, golf course and community areas and hopes to complete the project by 2015.