Erin and Neil Woodhams moved to Whenuapai from Titirangi 16 years ago. Erin tells Catherine Smith why this country corner of Auckland is still special.

We came here because we wanted to do the whole farming thing, with animals, the chooks and the dogs and everything. We built the house from timber milled on the property. I am really mad on gardening so we cut up the old vineyards and planted every tree, every bit of this garden. Now we're cutting and culling because everything is so huge.

When we moved there was only one other person on the street, gradually more and more people have moved in, but it is still a green belt here, which is good. The street was called horse row, because so many people had ponies.

Out last child was just finishing school when we moved, now they've all gone off and married - four sons and nine grandchildren. The children just love it out here, to come out with the animals - we run cattle, and chickens - and in the summer they raid the vege garden, plus we've got a pool. There aren't as many fruit and vege pick-your-own places these days, between here and Hobsonville, but we still go to the huge strawberry farm, and there are often good buys up towards Coatesville. Over at Huapai, there's Fluteys Breads and there are terrific fish shops in Henderson. We're at a crossroads here - five minutes to anywhere, it's so handy. The last of the ring road routes around the city have gone in, you can just zip into the city, West or South, it works well.

At Massey Westgate there's a great library and a good picture theatre. But it's still dry here, so we have to bring in our own wine , but we don't miss that. When we arrived there was no cafe, nothing. In the village itself now there is a fabulous butcher, people just fight for his bacon. At the other end is the cafe (Lombardi's), it's just the best, the food, the service. It opens on to the pavement and it's all very friendly, people catch up and talk without being intrusive. I'm in a wheelchair with my MS and the garage guy will come and pick up my car and bring it back; it's all very personal service and that's what makes it special.


There is a very strong school here, it's decile 10, primary through to intermediate, and it makes it very popular: country life with a good school. And the airforce is part of that community too, although they are cutting back. A lot of the airbase will be paths so we can ride around and now we've got the Hobsonville Market. We go occasionally and it's a fantastic one, good breads, it's great.

We don't have a bus service or trains, there aren't enough people, but that will need to happen. All I want is for it to stay green.

Lombardi's Cafe: 61 Brigham Creek Rd Whenuapai, ph: (09) 416 4601. Open Mon to Fri 6.30am-4pm; Sat, Sun 8.30-3pm

Garelja Bros Strawberry Gardens: 63 SH16 Massey, ph: (09) 416 8586

Whenuapai Meat Centre: 87 Brighams Creek Rd Whenuapai, ph: (09) 416 8764

A Tavola Breads: 322 State Highway 16 Huapai, ph: (09) 412 7000

* Neil Woodhams chairs the Multiple Sclerosis Society of Auckland, the designated charity for the TelstraClear Challenge on Sunday December 11, and is leading a Bike MS team.