The Bookabach Bach of the Year Awards 2017 are back and your vote will make the difference.

Post-voting coalition negotiations not included! Contenders have been whittled down to 40 alluring finalists, across eight diverse categories, and the winners will be crowned by public vote.

At last count, Bookabach has nearly 12,000 properties listed around New Zealand - whether by a lake, up a mountain, in the bush, in the city, or by the beach.

This is your chance to vote for your favourite holiday home and every vote cast puts you in the draw to win one of 10 $1000 Bookabach escapes. You'll be able to pick your top property across eight categories: Best Setting, Hospitality, Child Friendly, Pet Friendly, Eco Friendly, Design, Charm, Urban.


The eight category winners will then vie for supreme honours, which will be selected by a judging panel.

Last year's supreme winner was The Treehouse, Waiheke Island, alongside winning the Best Quirky category.

Centred around a spiral staircase linking the three levels, this little beauty is tucked away in the bush, intertwined with nature and an orchestral cacophony of birdsong.

In the lead-up to the annual awards, I recently had the pleasure of experiencing the Best Eco-friendly Category Winner from 2016, The First Light House, on Hawke's Bay's Waimarama Beach.

Set back from the beach on Lightning Ridge, waking up to the roar of the ocean and the expansive views all the way down to Cape Kidnappers and across to Bare Island was an elemental thrill.

Impeccably designed and unfailingly eco-friendly, the First Light House offers luxury, thrill-factor and ultra-comfort, while treading oh-so-light on the environment.

Designed by University of Victoria architectural students, this superlative bach has won international design awards and uses energy efficient design and solar power to lower its environmental impact.

It was New Zealand's entry in the American Solar Decathlon in 2011, becoming the first ever finalist from the southern hemisphere and achieving third place.

Inspired by a traditional Kiwi bach, the design celebrates the outdoorsy New Zealand lifestyle and strong sense of place. The rooms are multi-functional with every inch of space utilised.

Perfect for a couple or flexible enough to sleep six, an ingenious system of bunks and fold-down beds can be found in the living room.

Throughout most of the year, the energy company delivers the owners a cheque in the mail - not a bill, thanks to its zero energy design, triple glazed windows and exceptional power, heating, cooling and energy monitoring technology.

Western Red Cedar cladding and a floating canopy accentuate the home's aesthetic appeal.

But it's those killer views across the great sweep of Waimarama Beach that are the real restorative heart-stealer.
Tripping Hawke's Bay

While soaking up the rays in sunny Hawke's Bay, I got my hands behind the wheel of a brand new HAVAL H2, which has just been launched in the New Zealand market.

It is China's No1 SUV brand, offering Kiwi motorists a modern-yet-tough European-inspired range of SUVs, ideal for New Zealand's varying road conditions.

My fashionable ruby-red HAVAL H2, with sporty styling, navigated the steep and narrow roads leading to Ocean Beach and Waimarama with grace and ease.

I also gave her a workout on the twisting back-country roads leading to the beautiful Maraetotara Falls and up the zig-zagging path to the lofty heights of Te Mata Peak. She handled the roads with aplomb.

It's no wonder the HAVAL H2 is such a sales star in her home country, powered by a technologically advanced 1.5L Turbo engine, sending power to the six-speed automatic transmission.

The entry level premium model, which retails in New Zealand for under $26,000, is loaded with eye-catching features such as 18-inch alloy wheels, sunroof, keyless entry and start, cruise control, Bluetooth audio streaming, reverse camera with parking sensors and a 7-inch touchscreen.

The H2 is a mix of stylish design, creature comforts and performance, ideal for self-drive holidays around the country.

As SUVs continue to rise in popularity, this is a sharply-priced proposition.