Living in a provincial centre just a few hours' drive from a big city like Auckland or Wellington is the best of both worlds.
You can enjoy the peace and quiet of the provincial lifestyle but can still make a return trip to the Big Smoke in a day any time you feel the need.
When working fulltime I did this for years but we now tend to make a trip of it, staying over and enjoying the delights of the capital.
We love Wellington but we also love leaving it to return home.
In the past two to three years this is becoming more and more of a mission in terms of coping with the increased traffic volumes in Horowhenua and Kāpiti.
We all know that relief is coming with the completion of Transmission Gully and the Pekapeka to Ōtaki Expressway, ultimately followed by an extension of the expressway to north of Levin.
These projects are huge and hence years in length. In the meantime traffic on State Highway 1 from south of Pukerua Bay to north of Levin resembles a mobile carpark at times.
Our two-hour journey can be increased to nearly three hours if we pick the wrong time to travel.
The area bounded by Pukerua Bay and Levin is the area of growth in the Wellington region. In my lifetime it has gone from a collection of small villages and sleepy towns to an extension of the Greater Wellington conurbation.
Wellingtonians used to "holiday" on the coast. It was considered far enough away from home to be a beach-side holiday in a rented bach or home or, if lucky, a family-owned bach.
Motor camps were flat out during summer with caravan owners and family campers making the most of the beautiful coastal weather and beaches.
That is all changing. Waikanae and Paraparaumu, two distinct and different towns, will unite within the next few years. Ōtaki is becoming the place to be for Wellington people wanting to shop cheaply among the plethora of outlet shops opening there. Once the expressway is finished I predict Ōtaki will go ahead in leaps and bounds. It is a nice place to be.
If the extension of the dual railway from Waikanae to Ōtaki and eventually Levin takes place, which is a no-brainer, commuters will gladly live in these towns, enjoying what is left of the country or provincial lifestyle and work in Wellington.
More infrastructure is needed to give the coast the chance to form its own city. A railway tunnel from south of Paekakariki to the other side of Pukerua Bay is needed to replace the ancient single-line railway dating back to the late 19th century.
The Kāpiti and Horowhenua area needs its own modern hospital. If one needs medical care urgently on the coast at present one has a choice: drive to Capital Coast Health in Wellington or MidCentral Health in Palmerston North. Not a good option if life is in the balance.
In the meantime we all quietly and slowly creep up and down State Highway 1 at about 20 to 30km/h for hours on end. The highway has not changed drastically since the 1950s other than a few realignments but the traffic volume now is horrendous, well above what the road was designed to cater for.
Of course the coast is about the only option left now for expansion of the Greater Wellington area. The Hutt Valley still has areas for development as does Porirua and Mana but the open country of the coast beckons developers and lifestylers.
Older people from around the region seem to be moving to the coast area in droves. Managed care facilities are booming and Waikanae is probably the home of more over-65s per thousand in the country. We call in for a coffee on occasions at Waikanae and it is a hoot to sit in cafes surrounded by older people. The absence of young children and their parents is noticeable.
I suppose us oldies have to go somewhere before we all shuffle off. What is better than having us all in the one area with all the support systems we need as we age, plenty of disability car parks and room for mobility scooters to race around the shopping centres?
I am looking forward to the day I can drive on to the expressway north of Levin and travel all the way into central Wellington without having to stop often or creep slowly for kilometres. The way the contractors are progressing I hope I am still around to see it happen. Not likely before 2028-29 barring further pandemics or such-like events that will stop progress.
Pukerua Bay and Paekakariki will soon become quiet villages again and potentially places where the rich and famous may decide to settle for the lifestyle.