We have a bach in a location that should receive no free publicity for fear it is discovered and evolves into a playground for the rich.

While the area's healthy ethnic and socio-economic mix should prevent this from happening, it certainly makes for an eclectic community which often makes one suspect one has been unknowingly cast as a bit-player in a Lotto ad. The glue that holds the community together is not the MPs, councillors or boards of trustees but a solid mix of the volunteer fire brigade, the dairy owners and the surf lifesavers.

Bach life is a perfect antidote to the life we lead for the other 50 or so weeks of the year. While some say they couldn't live like this all the time, I wonder why not.

It's a simple and primal lifestyle which, if we had the guts to downshift to permanently, would no doubt have us living longer, happier and healthier lives.

There are two time zones - before and after lunch. On either side of lunch the existence is random, each day being an interchangeable series of cups of teas, walks to the dairy, swimming, board games and reading. Then comes the big decision - a barbecue or fish and chips for dinner?

We seem more at peace at the bach and yet we have less. The furniture deemed inappropriate for home is welcomed at the bach. We forget the word "should" and merrily relinquish the little rules that clog our normal lives but serve only to overcomplicate them. So what if there is sand on the carpet and a crack in the window? This year we had a race with our neighbour to paint our baches in experimental colours. He won, as he didn't bother with sandpaper, happily spraying thick layers of paint over the old stuff.

The only two rules during a bach holiday involve water - swim between the flags and save precious tank water. If it's yellow, let it mellow. Can you imagine not flushing the toilet at home?

Bach life teaches us tolerance and cooperation as we manage to squeeze up to four generations and up to 7 demographic groupings into a two-bedroom shack with one bathroom and no mod cons.

Bach holidays highlight how limiting and insular our usual existence is. It takes but a few days for the plastic Christmas gifts to lie forgotten on the floor as kids learn to make their own fun. And, increasingly, urbanites wait until the bach holiday to teach their children life skills. Where and when else are kids going to learn how to drive a farm bike, clean a paint brush, set a fishing net, pitch a tent and make dinner?

Once upon a time someone did a terrific job of convincing the greater populace that they deserved only three weeks' holiday a year and it wasn't a good idea to take these consecutively. So, dutifully, we leave it to a handful of days a year to make the lasting memories that we will fondly recollect in our old age. Slices of bach life will be the stories we bore our grandchildren with - playing charades as a family, giving the baby outdoor baths under the stars.

The idiosyncratic culture of bach life is difficult to explain to foreigners. It's one of the few cultural experiences treasured as unique as we are swallowed up by global influences. Baches are accessible to almost everyone. If you don't own one you can rent or stay at someone else's.

Holidaying in our New Zealand hideout is more relaxing than two weeks in Hawaii because there is no nagging obligation to attend the luau.

It's safer than two weeks in Fiji, with no fear of military coup or random hurricane.

And it's cheaper than any holiday involving a plane, as there is no frenzied shopping at duty free to buy gifts or booze we don't really need.

All we require is the dairy to be open, an eftpos card that works and a Herald tide chart to be current.

This week State Highway One will suck thousands of bach dwellers away from their simple existences and back to the city lights in slow-moving but obedient queues.

As they review their New Year resolution to get things into greater perspective, they may ponder why they are driving away from the place that allows them to do it so easily.