Pirongia Clydesdales has been many things. It evolved from a goat shed to a carriage shed, then an event functions venue, then a cafe and now it's become a childcare centre.

Over a year ago Lorraine and Kahl Phillips brought the Pirongia Clydesdales Coach Cafe premises with a vision to turn it into Moutaineers Childcare and Education centre.

Lorraine has been working in the early childhood education industry for nearly 20 years and they used to own Kiwi's Corner childcare centre in Ōtorohanga approximately seven years ago before moving down to the South Island.

"We've come back up and decided to open another one [childcare centre] because we realised we missed it and this is where we feel that home is - it's our roots," said Lorraine.

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Mountaineers Childcare and Education centre. Photo / Supplied.
Mountaineers Childcare and Education centre. Photo / Supplied.

Working in the industry she noticed that there was a gap between larger childcare centres and home-based childcare centres.

"I've worked in home-based kindergartens too and it was here that I swore I was never going to go back to childcare centres or preschools," says Lorraine.

"But one day I realised there was a gap in the market between the large centres and small home-based providers so that's what drew me back into - the need for family orientated centres."

Moutaineers Childcare and Education centre features a babies (0 - 18 months) room, a babies sleeping area, an older kids room (18 months - six years), two separate outdoor play areas with climbing boxes and sandpits, there is a wharenui and separate sheltered deck areas.

They currently have 13 children enrolled. Some have not been able to start yet because of Covid-19.

The childcare centre opened two weeks before alert level 4 lockdown and Lorraine says that initially they thought they were going to lose the business.

The childcare centre has two separate outdoor play areas for the younger and older children. Photo / Supplied.
The childcare centre has two separate outdoor play areas for the younger and older children. Photo / Supplied.

"We've actually been quite fortunate. The government and ministry of education support has been great," says Lorraine.

"We obviously have experience a loss of income and my initial thoughts were that we were going to loose the place, that we would have to sell or the bank would take it, but thankfully that hasn't happened. We've had a lot of support and we're really grateful for that."

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When the country moved to alert level 3 the childcare centre was able to reopen for those children that needed care.

During this period they have just two children attending.

The childcare centre holds a license for 30 children. That number can increase to 50 once they have more qualified teachers.

Lorraine and Kahl brought the property and approximately a hectare of land from the original owners and founders of Pirongia Clydesdales and Coach House cafe, Nick and Jill van der Sande.

Pirongia Clydesdales provided rides for visitors to Equidays in 2013.
Pirongia Clydesdales provided rides for visitors to Equidays in 2013.

Nick and Jill brought the land in 1998, then it was a bare 30 acres.

They first put a house from Waikeria Prison onto the land and they moved into it in 1999.

Nick and a friend then uplifted two goat sheds in Tamahere and brought them back to Pirongia. After six months of working on them they become the carriage shed and this space became a wedding and events venue.

Around 15 years ago they built their main house on the property and 10 years ago they converted the carriage shed into a cafe.

They would often get bus loads of tourists in for lunch followed by a Clydesdale and carriage ride around Pirongia Village.

Jill says that when they decided to sell the property they weren't looking for someone to just convert it into a house.

Pirongia Clydesdales owners Nick and Jill van der Sande are pleased that the premises is continuing to be utilised for a business.
Pirongia Clydesdales owners Nick and Jill van der Sande are pleased that the premises is continuing to be utilised for a business.

"We wanted it to be something that would be remembered - this is the place we developed. I could have sold it to someone who wanted to covert it into a house but it just didn't seem right. It needed to be something more specific like a business," says Jill.

"We wish them well and we hope they do well, which we know they will because they are very passionate about what they do."

Lorraine and Kahl thanked all their tradies that made the childcare centre possible. They include Phillips Construction, Phase Electrical, Pirongia Plumbing, T.A Floor Sanders, Any Angle Roofing, McClunie Siteprep, McGuire Drainage and Contracting, Royale Standard Drywall, Scaf Pro and King Cooling.