Kia ora: Te Awamutu

Elisabeth Easther learns what makes this Waikato town tick.

Brothers Tim Finn, left, and Neil Finn are Te Awamutu's most famous sons. Photo / File
Brothers Tim Finn, left, and Neil Finn are Te Awamutu's most famous sons. Photo / File

Origin of name:
Translated from the Maori, it means River's End, or End of the Navigable River.

Nicknames:
Rose Town or T.A.

Population:
10,000.

Where is it:
30km south of Hamilton, in the Waipa District.

The town slogan:
Te Awamutu is the Rose Town of New Zealand and Waipa District is the Home of Champions because of the sporting legends raised here.

The town's mascot:
The Rose.

Most famous locals:
Tim and Neil Finn were born and raised in T.A, and didn't they do well? Horse people, netballers, rugby players, cyclists and rowers: this place has something in the water. Historically, Te Wherowhero and Te Rauparaha were both born within cooee of Te Awamutu.

Main industry:
Dairy and agriculture. Fonterra has a big base here, and Pop 'n' Good Popcorn is proudly made in Te Awamutu.

Best museum/art gallery:
The Te Awamutu Museum, one of the best community museums in New Zealand, always has things on the go, with eels and elephants currently heading the bill. The permanent collection is fabulous too, containing more than 7000 items, and True Colours, the story of Split Enz and Crowded House.

The town competition:
There's a loo race down the main street at Christmas as part of the Santa Parade, where participants ride toilets to the finish line. There's also the Maungatautari Cycle Classic.

Great reason to stop:
The Rose Gardens, particularly splendid when they're in bloom. The Rose Festival is in November, but they're good for a gander all year round. Also the Sculpture Park on Albert Park Drive, and the Heritage Trail, starting at the i-Site on Gorst St.

Best place to take the kids:
There's a wonderful park next to the Trust Waikato Te Awamutu Events Centre, which has a flying fox, a maypole, a hamster wheel you can pop the kids in to run off some energy, and lots of other great stuff. It's really new and everything works.

Best swim:
The Events Centre, where you can spend the whole day in the heated baths, with hydroslides, and you can take your own picnic, for just $2 a head. There are some great streams too, if you're feeling hardy.

Best place to get a drink:
The Redoubt is a winner, a pub with a lot of history and hearty meals.

Best food:
The Red Kitchen is an amazing, everyday gourmet eatery in the heart of the Waikato.

Best flat white:
The Empire is the best place for great coffee, in the old Empire Theatre building.

Best bakery:
Viand's has won awards for pies. The main shop is in Kihikihi, but there is a branch in T.A.

Best walk:
The area is spoilt for good walks, around Lake Ngaroto, Maungatautari, Kakepuku - a stout, steep walk - and around Mt Pirongia, where tracks go up, over, in and out. Caves too, if you're that way inclined.

Best view:
Again there are many, but it's hard to beat the sight from the top of Mt Pirongia, looking out over the Waikato Basin to Te Aroha. You can drive up to the Grays Rd lookout.

Best facilities:
There's a lovely new set of toilets at the i-Site information centre. There's even a free shower. Brand new, clean and pristine. Great place to change babies - change, that is, not exchange.

Here for a short time?
If you've got only 10 minutes, the Walk of Fame at Selwyn Park, opposite the Rose Gardens. Also the Music Park, which features stainless steel music instruments, so you can play the drums or the xylophone.

When a local has visitors staying from abroad, where do they take them?
The Maungatautari Native Bush Reserve, 3400ha of native bush blows people's minds. There's also the Waitomo Caves, good when you want to show off.

Safety warnings:
Always watch for cows crossing on rural roads. Not everyone has an underpass and those cows can be as big as cars, and very cross if you swerve up to them in a hurry.

Reason to relocate here:
See above.

Reason to leave:
Rates have just sky-rocketed.

More information: teawamutu.co.nz
Thanks to local woman Tene McGrath for sharing her knowledge.

- NZ Herald

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