By Graham Hepburn
Moving to Matamata has been on the agenda for Noel and Rhonda Harris for a while now.
They hatched a plan to shift there, with their daughter and her family to follow.
But it's taken them so long to tidy up their affairs, including selling Noel's printing business, that their daughter has beaten them to Matamata.
But the printing business is sold and next is their home of 16 years.
The couple bought the Helensville property in 2001 because they wanted to try their hand at breeding ostriches.
"It's more interesting watching ostriches than watching cows," says Noel. "They are always doing something, and they taste really nice."
As well as ostriches, the property has been home to ducks, goats, chickens, pigs, pigeons and alpacas. With four paddocks, there's plenty of room for this type of menagerie as well as pens and sheds to accommodate them.
While the land suited their plans, they could also see that the single-level Victorian villa that sat on it would come up a treat with some work.
"It was tidy-ish when we bought it but it needed a lot of work," says Noel. "The first time we renovated I did it with traditional medallion-type wallpapers and the like and it took me 10 years to get through the house. By the time I finished, it was time to do it again, so this time we went for a more neutral and modern look and brightened it up."
The early 1900s villa has character features such as plaster ceiling roses, panelled walls, sash windows and polished matai floors.
Renovations included installing a kitchen that has a slab of macrocarpa as a breakfast bar. "It had a hole in it so we fibreglassed a weta in there so it sits looking back at you."
Noel says when they renovated they replaced plastic fittings with ones in wood and brass - more in keeping with the home's vintage.
A perfect example of that is the new bathroom, with claw-foot bath, a pull-chain toilet and vintage fittings. The colour scheme is a traditional green and cream that features in other rooms.
Out-of-character joinery has been replaced with villa-style items, and internal rimu doors have been fitted with coloured glass.
The house has real street appeal with its return veranda wrapping around the north and west sides of the house, leading to the front door at one end and the formal lounge at the other.
Inside, there are two bedrooms to the right, including the master with walk-in wardrobe and bathroom.
To the left are the third bedroom, the formal lounge and a smaller lounge, before you reach the open-plan dining room and kitchen.
The dining room opens to a large covered deck where there is a spa pool and beyond that an outdoor dining space - a paved area with open fire and a thatched roofed gathering spot.
Noel and Rhonda have also landscaped around the home, creating a pond, paths and a Japanese garden as well as planting a proliferation of fruit trees.
"We also created 'Mirror Lane' - it's a tree-lined path that looks like it goes on forever because it has a mirror at the end of it, and you don't realise until you start to get close and see yourself in the mirror," says Noel.
Going beyond the Japanese-style garden and through the paddock, you reach the jetty that Noel built into the Kaipara River.
"We built the jetty so we could catch sprats with the grandkids but you can catch mullet with a net an hour either side of high tide."
And, of course, Noel has a smokehouse, too, just right for that mullet.