The difficult beginnings of the now popular seaside retreat of Riversdale

Riversdale from the air.
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Riversdale from the air.

Basil Bodle was written off as crazy for his desire to turn Riversdale Beach into a resort area on the Wairarapa coast.

His  initial vision, when he started in 1954, was ridiculed and he was even called a lunatic by some.

But when the project finally gained traction there was no shortage of people trying to lay claim to being a part of its establishment.

Sun rays burst through early morning cloud off Riversdale Beach in this photo taken by Jamie Cameron of Lower Hutt on ...
Jamie Cameron

Sun rays burst through early morning cloud off Riversdale Beach in this photo taken by Jamie Cameron of Lower Hutt on New Year's day from the deck of the family beach house.

Fast forward 63 years and Riversdale is a busy and much-loved summertime resort town, with an all-year round population who see it as more than that.  

For decades Bodle's children have heard people claim they were behind the project.


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Riversdale on average gets the best all year round surf according to some and is a popular holiday destination for ...
SUPPLIED

Riversdale on average gets the best all year round surf according to some and is a popular holiday destination for people from around the central North Island.

So Bodle's son Gary and  his sister Barbara Griffith have decided to start a website that will show photos, hand written and typed notes and tape recordings that give clear proof who was behind the creation of the seaside destination. 

The siblings have been concerned about the distortion of the resort's true history.  

Gary Bodle said he wanted people to know the real story.

Spectators watching a surf carnival at Riversdale in the early 1960s.

Spectators watching a surf carnival at Riversdale in the early 1960s.

"We've heard all sort of claims over the years, people saying they had a part in the effort to start the place off.

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"But it was our father who defied the doubters to make it happen."

The farmer who sold him the land was relieved to do so because he often said it only carried two sheep because it was all sandhills and no grass.

It is rumoured he told acquaintances Bodle was "a fool" to buy it.

But Bodle had spotted something that would later be confirmed by the New Zealand Metservice - that Riversdale was in fact the most sheltered area along the Wairarapa coast because it was directly in line with the highest point on the Tararua Ranges.

He and his family got to work planting trees, building a golf course, a store and a camping ground.

 Family friends Dave and Betty Pringle were also there at the formative stages helping to sell sections and Bodle's Masterton Reliance Tyre & Rubber staff helped out early on as well.

Bodle also made land available to church groups and for a surf club and Riversdale began to flourish.

Some of the Bodle family still live in Riversdale and those who have left visit at least once a year if not more. Basil Bodle died in 1992 but did live to see his vision come to life as anyone who has been to Riversdale will attest. 

Anyone who wishes to contribute their own memorabilia to the website can email bodle@mail.co.nz.

 

 - Stuff

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