Predictions of a bleak future for Orewa were rife when the town was bypassed by SH1 almost three years ago.

Although the opening of the Northern Gateway toll road meant Orewa lost a lot of through traffic, it has allowed the Hibiscus Coast town to forge a new identity.

As Leanne Smith, operations manager of Destination Orewa Beach, says, "People were initially quite sceptical about losing 80 per cent of your traffic through the town but the upgrade of the main road and the widening of the footpaths has reconnected the town centre to the beach and it has proven to be an absolute hit. Creating shared spaces has also really made a difference."

Integrating town and beach, which were a little cut off from each other because of the flow of traffic before the bypass, means residents and visitors can enjoy the town's star attraction: a 3km stretch of golden sand beach that offers clean and safe swimming. It's also a favourite spot for kite surfers and wind surfers.

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It's that beach that was a major attraction for the Francevic family who have holidayed in Orewa for decades, with Robbie and wife Rosita now living in the town having built a home on a beachfront site next door to the family bach about 18 months ago.

"We've come here all our lives from back in the early days when our parents bought baches up here," says Robbie, a former saloon car driver. "It's the best beach you could ever imagine and you're still only about 20 minutes to Auckland."

Robbie, who used to own service stations in Orewa, says the village is a lot quieter since the bypass but the town offers an unparalleled lifestyle.

"You've got fishing, hiking, boating, golf and good restaurants," he says.

Leanne Smith says the NorthernMotorway connection makes commuting a realistic option, especially for people who work on the North Shore.

"What we are seeing are North Shore people coming up here and what appears to be happening is they are selling their property, investing here and lowering their debt but they still have an easy commute," says Leanne, who has lived in Orewa for 20 years.

"A lot of companies have staff working from home one day a week so as long as you have a good internet connection then there's no reason why you can't live here."

She says Orewa previously had a reputation as a retirement town but that's changing with young families moving into areas such as Maygrove, giving the town the same demographic spread as the North Shore.

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However, a draft master plan for growth in the town means it will always have a quiet seaside appeal as high-rise buildings have been restricted and population growth is to be capped at 11,000 people by 2050. At the last census, Orewa had a population of almost 7500 people. Leanne Smith says one of the great legacies of the Rodney District Council, before it was gobbled up by the Auckland Supercity, was beginning the Orewa West Walkway and Cycleway that runs along the estuary and connects the town with Silverdale. The Millennium Walkway around the town, along the beach and through reserves and bush is also a popular sightseeing and fitness trail.

Wenderholm Regional Park,Waiwera hot springs and Gulf Harbour golf course are also close by.

BEST STREETS
For proximity to the beach, Hibiscus Coast Highway, Kohu St, Noel Ave, Puriri Ave and Marine Parade. For best views, Manhattan Rise, Grovenor Drive, Savoy Road, Ascot Way and West Hoe Heights.

SCHOOLS IN THE AREA
Orewa School, Orewa North School, KingsWay School, Orewa College.