Colourful publican's property empire under the hammer

By Peter de Graaf

Part of a property empire amassed by one of Northland's most colourful publicans is going under the hammer in a mortgagee auction later this month.

The late Zita Cameron owned and ran many of the Mid North's best-known pubs at various times in her career, including the Kaikohe Hotel where she famously gave a balaclava-clad robber an expletive-laden brow-beating that sent him scurrying away empty handed. The foiled robbery took place in 2006 when Mrs Cameron was aged 72.

The Kaikohe Hotel, however, is not among the properties coming up for auction. Instead the portfolio comprises a six-unit motel with a restaurant and manager's dwelling overlooking Whangaroa Harbour, plus a neighbouring four-bedroom home; a backpackers lodge/laundromat on Kaeo's main street; an early 1900s Masonic Hall opposite the pub in Kaeo; and a three-bedroom home in Kaikohe.

Mrs Cameron and her husband Ray worked in the hospitality industry for more than 40 years, at various times running pubs in Ohaeawai, Okaihau, Kaikohe and Kaeo. She was said to have a hard-as-nails exterior but a heart of gold, and was famous for getting behind the bar while still in her dressing gown. Her disdain for local government rules and regulations endeared her to her regulars, if not to the authorities. She died two years ago.

The properties will be sold on April 12 at the Kerikeri office of Bayleys Real Estate on behalf of ANZ Bank.

Bayleys Kerikeri manager Paul Jeeves said the properties offered their new owners a chance to put in much-needed new investment to bring to modern standards. The motel, Pacific Harbour Lodge, was on 1622sq m of land while the adjoining home and self-contained unit sat on 2233sq km.

The Kaikohe Hotel is owned by Cameron Enterprises, whose sole shareholder is Mrs Cameron's daughter Frances MacCulloch, an Auckland publican. She could not be contacted.

The hotel is run by Neal Summers, who hopes to turn a vacant lot next door into a retirement village.

- Northern Advocate

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