My Auckland: Waiatarua

By Elisabeth Easther

Phil Smith tells Elisabeth Easther Waiatarua has been his family's home for 30 years.

Phil and Elly at Artisan Wines. Photo / Sarah Ivey
Phil and Elly at Artisan Wines. Photo / Sarah Ivey

We've been in Henderson Valley for 30 years. We tried a stint in Remmers but we're much happier out here. I remember vividly how we found this place. I used to travel overseas a lot. I arrived home on a plane from Singapore one day, I'd had no sleep, I was tired and my wife Elly said "I've found the house we've got to buy". Only it was 10am and we had to buy it by 12 noon. She took me to the house, there was a Swami there, it was an ashram, and this guy had fallen in love with my wife and kids. He had an agreement with someone else but insisted we were made for the place, all we had to do was match the price. And I said, "look I don't have a clue, I'm tired, I don't know what I can get for our house, no I'm not going to buy it". This caused a bit of a domestic furore.

Then, a couple of weeks later I said to my wife, if we are going to buy a house, I'd want to buy Dreamlands, a convalescent home where I used to take my mother in the 1950s. And I opened the Herald, and blow me down, the Dreamlands Estate was up for sale and we bought it.

Technically, we live in Waiatarua but I prefer to call it Henderson Valley.

It goes all the way out to the back of Henderson, for miles to the foothills of the Waitaks, then winds up to Scenic Drive. We're in the next valley across from Oratia, it's a serious valley, and prior to here we were in Swanson.

The place was just wonderful, it was run by philanthropists, and built as a retreat. You had to be disabled to stay here, I think my Mum used to pay two shillings a day, it was never run for profit. Back then it was 28 acres, with walkways over the whole lot. You could wheel a wheelchair right to the bottom of the section. I used to throw Mum in the dinghy and row her round the lake. There's also a big kauri dam, with glow worms. It was quite remote from Auckland in the 1950s, the only way you could get here was by taxi or car, there was no public transport. It was going to be a restaurant, but the locals banned it.

I'll miss it, the Waitaks, the foothills, you get your own space and we're only 30 minutes from the CBD. We brought our four children up here. They loved it. And now our grandkids are drawn here, we've got plenty of them.

One of them calls it "the deep country" and that describes it well.

We've got heaps of wonderful attractions. We've got waterfalls, and Old MacDonald's Farm down on Henderson Valley Rd. They have all sorts of animals from rats to cows to horses.

There are lots of local vineyards and a lovely Indian restaurant called Flame, which has great food without city prices. There's the Corban's Estate, that's just a mecca for interesting activities.

The cafe attached to Artisan Wines is extremely good, as is the Oratia Farmers' Market on Saturday mornings which is just next door. Not too far away we have the West Coast beaches, they're fantastic. We've always had big dogs, and they love the beaches, and you're allowed free rein at Karekare.

There's wonderful live theatre near us too, in Glen Eden at the playhouse. There's also a lovely local walk from the bottom of our road to the pipeline, called the Pipeline Track, you can walk right through to Swanson. There are so many walks to choose from. I take my big dog to a park up the road, it's real open bush, not like a city park, heritage land, and he just runs mad. We'll miss a lot when we move. The fellow we bought the place from cried when he sold it to us, and so will I when we leave.

Phil's favourite things

* Flame Restaurant, 1/253 Henderson Valley Rd Henderson 09 835 9990

* Artisan Wines and Cafe, 99 Parrs Cross Rd Waitakere, 09 838 7979.

* The Oratia Farmers' Market. Saturdays, 9am-12pm. 99 Parrs Cross Rd, Oratia.

* Old MacDonald's Farm. 308 Henderson Valley Rd, Henderson. 09 837 2952.

Phil and Elly's Talk of Turkey rugs has a closing down sale this weekend and next.

- NZ Herald

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