Corazon Miller is a NZ Herald reporter

Piece of land near where Polynesian navigator Kupe first set foot on New Zealand is for sale

A rare undeveloped gem in the Hokianga where Polynesian settlers are first believed to have set foot on New Zealand soil is for sale.
A rare undeveloped gem in the Hokianga where Polynesian settlers are first believed to have set foot on New Zealand soil is for sale.

A rare undeveloped gem in the Hokianga where Polynesian settlers are first believed to have set foot on New Zealand soil is for sale - with its current owner hoping to make true his vision of transforming the land into an educational eco-retreat.

The almost 92-hectare lot, nicknamed Secluded Haven, is blanketed with an array of native flora and fauna that lies along the natural curve and ebb of the land situated mere minutes away from the twin settlements of Omapere and Opononi.

Artist Jeremy Cloake said the land, which remained largely undeveloped aside from a man-made 2km long driveway that entered the property from Newton Rd, was a blank canvas for someone with vision.

"An eco-development where natural beauty, where the mauri, the life-force of the land is held in integrity," he said.

"Not whacking down and chopping down a lot of things, but working with what's already there and enhancing that."

The land was marked by a stretch of native forest complete with centuries-old trees, natural limestone rock and boulders, fresh spring water, wetlands and waterways.

The lot, listed for $1.88m if it was to be sold as a whole, was also near the Hokianga Harbour, where it has been said the first Polynesian to discover New Zealand - navigator Kupe - arrived.

The Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand said Kupe's journey to the area was "triggered by difficulties with fishing in Hawaiki, his homeland" and was "legendary in the history of Ngāpuhi".

It's this local history combined with the "robustness" of the local people and the land and its "wow" factor that drew Cloake to the area and led him to purchasing the property with a friend almost 10 years ago, for just over $1m.

"I have always loved the Hokianga, there's something about the Waipoua Forest, the sand dunes and the harbour and the Maori history there ... just that 'wow' factor; when you come through that way you see the harbour and the sand dunes for the first time."

Today, the Hokianga remained a largely rural area dotted with small towns. The twin settlements of Opononi and Omapere boasted long stretches of white beaches, rolling sand dunes and royal blue sea with a native forest backdrop - some three hours north of Auckland along SH12.

The last census in 2013 put the population of the two towns at 414 - less than 1 per cent of the Far North District's population of 55,734.

The place became well-known in 1955 when Opo "the happy dolphin" played with children in the Hokianga harbour. A statue of the bottlenose, that died just a day after official protection was granted to it, was erected in Opononi.

The area's natural allure was also what led to the reported influx of a number of celebs, such as Duncan Garner, Kerre Woodham and Wendyl Nissen, buying a home away from home in the fairly isolated region.

In the decade since Cloake first bought his own piece of the Hokianga he's added very fewstructures to the land beyond the winding driveway.

Instead he's chosen to enhance its native features, adding in a large orchard with native and Mediterranean fruits and crops; brought in some cattle, a number of beehives and manuka - a foundation for his dreams of an educational eco-retreat.

"Already there's a lot of food being produced, the infrastructure is already there."

Ideally Cloake wanted to keep a section for himself and enter into a partnership with others who shared his artistic vision for turning it into something that could provide a retreat for visitors but also be used by the local community.

"I would want to keep a piece for myself, whether that means selling my share or developing it further and selling five blocks - that remains to be decided on responses.

"I have no idea what the future holds, but I trust that whatever happens will be managed well by the robustness of the local people."

To contact the owner go here

- NZ Herald

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