Top choices for island life

By Phil Hanson

Here's our tips to help Chathams locals enjoy their 100km of roads

Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Photo / Supplied
Subaru Impreza WRX STI. Photo / Supplied

Chatham Islands Day is being celebrated on Monday, so happy holiday to all 650 or so of you out there in the eastern Pacific.

Driven's special gift to this year's event is to suggest a group of vehicles that would particularly suit the island group's road transportation needs. Yes, we know the current fleet probably suits fairly well, but Driven always knows better.

After all, we're based in Auckland.

The Chathams kind-of snuck under the wire with this day off. Other parts of the country have days to celebrate founding of the provinces, or perhaps their abolition in 1876, but the Chathams were never part of a province, way out there 800km east of Christchurch.

However, that was no reason not to declare a holiday and have a day off. The actual date is November 30, but it's always celebrated on the closest Monday.

A couple of roadblocks face choosing the right vehicles for the Chathams.

One is that there are only about 100km of roads, of which only 12km is sealed, between Waitangi and Te One, a village on the way to the airport.

The other is that petrol costs between about $2.70 and $2.80 a litre, mostly due to getting it there from the mainland. Diesel also costs way more.

As far as the roads go, in both distance and condition, they're a mixed but tidy bag. The council's 2010-11 annual report notes only 46 per cent of residents were "satisfied or very satisfied with the roading network and no infestations of plant pests were found within the road reserve".

"There are no identified black or grey spots, rather areas of safety concern, in the Annual Roading Strategy and there were no motor vehicle accidents causing injury."

A Chathams visitors' website suggests why more than half of the residents don't think much of the roading system. It says that although roads are well formed and maintained, most have loose gravel and that "dust, children, stock and motorbikes are common.

"At night you may encounter wandering stock. Please adhere to the speed signs and for additional safety we strongly recommend a maximum speed of 40km/h in towns and 60km/h on the open road."

So that means our first car must be a:

Subaru Impreza WRX STi

Low speed limits, high fuel costs and not much to do on weekends? Clearly time to introduce boy racing and what better to do it with than the 221kWs of rally-bred performance that is the Subaru WRX STi.

Plus, the car comes with all-wheel-drive to nail those metalled roads and tight corners. Unfortunately, an STi's going to cost over $70,000 by the time the ship's dropped it off so let's hope farming and fishing receipts are up to scratch.

On second thought, maybe it's not such a good idea. If bored but time-rich young islanders want something to do, orienteering might be better. Much better.

Mazda MX-5

Chatham Islanders are self-sufficient individualists so what better way to express their rugged constitution than a convertible, top down? After all, isn't it always blowing a gale and raining?

Maybe not; although the TV weather reports seem to indicate that it's always either raining or about to rain, the Chathams have less annual rain than Auckland, an average of 855mm compared to Our top choices for island life 1240mm. And there's less wind than Wellington.

Anyway, we're not about to let facts get in the way and recommend the latest MX-5 at just over $51,000 for the soft top, on the basis that the Coupe, with its retractable hardtop, would be way too sissy.

Better watch the potholes, though; the MX-5 doesn't have much ground clearance.

Jaguar XF 2.2D
Fifty-three years ago, an air force Sunderland hit rocks while landing at Te Whanga Lagoon, was beached, stripped and finally abandoned. The remains of this Best of the British flying boats are there to see today.

What more appropriate way to visit it than in a Jaguar XF 2.2, one of today's Best of British? The 140kW engine is diesel, so that'll keep running costs down, and with emissions of 149g/km of CO2 the local environment will hardly even know it's there.

Toyota Prius v

It's the largest Prius, can seat seven, helps save the planet and will show visiting mainlanders that when it comes to being technologically "in", the Chatham Islanders most certainly are.

A Prius v is great for eco-sensitive locals, for shuttling passengers to and from the airport and for tourism companies; all for $51,000 and up.

Sealegs 7.7

We're thinking of the 40-odd Pitt Islanders here. Wouldn't it be great to just "drive" to your island instead of having to wait for a boat, or fly the 20-odd kilometres from Chatham Island?

Enter the New Zealand developed Sealegs 7.7m amphibious cabin boat, powered on the road by a four-stroke air-cooled Honda engine mounted under centre console.

It'll carry six people or up to half a tonne of stuff, can do 68km/h on the water and, um, 10km/h on the land; so it's a good job that life is slower on the Chathams.

- NZ Herald

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