More time to tend to an almost half-century-old classic Holden HQ is among the most enjoyable Covid-19 lockdown pleasures for Far North mayor John Carter.
The now nine-day old
lockdown has meant less driving to Far North District Council (FNDC) meetings at the council's Kaikohe head office.
"A typical journey is three hours round trip," Carter says from his Waipapakauri beachside home in the shadow of relentlessly wild Ninety Mile Beach/Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe.
The journey has stretched to five hours until June this year - after massive $16.2 million storm damage repairs to his normal State Highway 1 route over the Mangamukas to Kaikohe closed the road for 12 months. Getting to Kaikohe instead meant travelling via State Highway 10 and the east coast.
Carter's district council patch covers among the biggest areas in New Zealand, 7000 square kilometres from Cape Reinga to the north as far south as about Towai.
"We've got the largest roading network of any district council in New Zealand," he says.
The 1972 Australian-assembled Holden HQ's done just 13,000 original miles.
It's one of two he has at home to tend to, the other a vintage 1948 black Ford Anglia, with just 40,000 original miles on its 73-year-old clock.
Meanwhile, Carter has a third personal vehicle for his mayoral duties – in which he drives roughly 50,000 kilometres annually and for which he is reminbursed at local government rates.
Being Far North mayor has clearly not stopped since Covid-19 lockdown level 4 started.
There are still the myriad of tasks involved in helming New Zealand's most northern district council, and one of the country's most unique.
He wants to know his constituents are safe during level 4 lockdown - staying home, wearing masks if they need to go out for essential services, observing social distancing.
Carter said FNDC had learned a lot about how to function during Covid-19 level 4 lockdown - from having been through the same thing last year.
He and Northland's local government leaders regularly meet online through lockdown. Then there are virtual meetings with the Government and much more besides.
Carter's Local Government New Zealand (LGNZ) board meeting that was to be in Wellington on Friday
will now be online.
He's enjoying lockdown but hopes it doesn't linger.
"Lockdown is putting a lot of pressure on families and businesses, it places stress on our community," he says.
Being in lockdown has meant more time for the vegetable garden, keeping on top of harvesting the current challenge. There's silverbeet, broccoli, cauliflower and rocket to pick in what's a gardening team affair with wife Leoni.
"The grapes are budding, the passionfruit is growing," Carter says as his Waipapakauri home beside the wild west coast heads into spring.
That coast is a constant source of relaxation and pleasure for Carter and his wife, not least during lockdown.
"If the weather's okay, we're out onto the beach for a walk – with our masks on. There aren't usually many people about," he says.
His home is "about two seconds" from Ninety Mile Beach/Te Oneroa-a-Tōhe.
Being home 24/7 has also meant time to pause in between ongoing mayoral commitments.
More time to spend catching up with his five children, dozen grandchildren and four siblings for a start and then there are cousins and friends.
More time beside the Tasman Sea he often drives away from when normal life prevails.
For now, lockdown means being parked up. Like the two classic cars in the garage.
With wife Leoni, beside the uniquely ever-changing wild west coast Tasman Sea.