While neighbouring towns with enjoyed a property boom of sorts recently, Takapau has been slower to benefit. That is until now. Blair Voorend reports.
Takapau, population 522, is a small town with a freezing works off State Highway 2, 15 minutes south of Waipukurau.
It's a place most bypass on the journey south or north.
While fellow Central Hawke's Bay towns Waipawa and Waipukurau have taken off in recent times, Takapau has been slower to the property party.
Real estate agents say while Takapau wasn't really seen as a potential commuter town before, rising prices elsewhere have altered perceptions.
Palmerston North (80 minutes away) is perhaps still a hill too far. But Hastings (55 minutes away) isn't, and statistics suggest buyers are starting to jump in.
Recent OneRoof stats show Takapau has doubled its median price over the past three years, like many other areas in the region. But it remains one of the cheapest towns in Hawke's Bay to buy. Its median property price at May 2019 was $180,000.
That's more than $80,000 cheaper than Flaxmere's $265,000 median and almost half that of the next cheapest in Central Hawke's Bay — Otane's $330,000 median. The number of sales in the town has soared as a result, albeit from a small base.
The total value of sales in the town has more than doubled in three years.
In 2015, $2,507,800 was spent on property in the town. In 2018, it was $5,629,907.
At the same time, Otane and CHB country sale numbers have started, slowly, to dip.
Takapau though, shows no signs of slowing down.
Harcourts Waipukurau real estate agent Heatha Edwards says there are a range of people buying and properties being sold in the area.
Being central to major cities such as Hastings and Palmerston North had made it ideal for commuters as well, she said.
With cities getting expensive, many were looking to the area as a place to buy while also managing to save a few dollars.
"It gives young families breathing space to be able to pay a mortgage, while others can make their dream of becoming mortgage free a reality, and older people can downsize and put cash in the bank and go and enjoy retirement."
James Ward has lived in Takapau since 1976.
He said it was a vibrant and happening community when he first moved there, but the past 40 years hadn't always been kind to it.
"When I moved here it was a nice village and it had a great vibrant atmosphere where everyone knew everyone and people felt safe enough to leave their house unlocked," Ward said.
Takapau's gang problems over the past few decades have been well documented.
But recently the town had started to return to its former glory, Ward said.
"New houses have gone up and few new families have started to move in and especially over the last five to six years the town has started to move back to that community kind of feel."
The local primary school has been boosted at a time when rural schools are under pressure.
In 2016, it had 116 pupils, now it has 140.
Ward owns the well-known Kintail Honey business in Takapau, along with his sons Damien and Jason, and has regularly hired different staff through the years.
He has noticed the people applying for work have started to change. No longer is it just those who have run out of seasonal work at the freezing works.
"We used to employ a lot of single guys who were really the only ones living in the area, but now we are employing a lot of people with families who have moved themselves and their families to the region."
Harry Singh is one of the many who has moved in. The owner of the local Four Square, he arrived five years ago.
He says the region has already changed in just the short time he has lived there.
"The town in general has started to come together more, bringing that sense of community that not many other places have," Singh said. "The town itself has improved, from things like the streets looking more inviting with new plants or footpaths, which have encouraged a lot of people to do a bit of work on their own houses to make them look better."
The town attracts a lot of different people and Singh says many moving to the area are coming from all over the country.
"Even some people from Auckland and they love it. They all seem to move to get away from the cities and a lot of them enjoy the quiet and calm lifestyle."
Central Hawke's Bay mayor Alex Walker says the town has been in "great spirits" over the past few years and will only get better.
"It is small but well serviced with its own community-run health centre, a huge variety of sports clubs, a primary school and a kura kaupapa. It is also right next to SH2 and only an hour's drive to either Palmerston North or Napier.
"It is an incredibly strong and active community, which is why Takapau is thriving right now."