Each week, Elisabeth Easther meets the people in the Kiwi tourism industry.
I was brought up north of Kaukapakapa in a place called Glorit - it's so small it's not even a village. Growing up on the family farm, I went to a typical country school and lived the whole farming lifestyle. It was a lot of hard work but every year, mum and dad would pack the car and for three weeks we'd go camping somewhere really remote.
One year we went to Taputaputa Bay near Cape Reinga. Every night we'd have dinner really early, then get in our tents and shut them up, because the mosquitoes were so horrific. It was pretty hardcore but we'd driven all that way, it would've taken about eight hours in the old Chrysler Valiant, towing a pop-up trailer camper, and mum would've said: "I'm not packing up so we're going to stick it out."
Probably the worst holiday, at least I thought it was at the time, was when I was about 16 and Mum and Dad decided to take us tramping to Waikaremoana. That first day is pretty much all uphill to get to the hut.
The last section is wooden steps, and because Cave Creek had just happened, DoC had shut the steps and we had to go the long way. So we take this detour, we're kids who've been tramping all day, we're carrying all our own gear, it's 5pm, the detour is not well marked, and it's starting to get dark. I'm losing the plot and dad, a farmer, just says, "get over it, we'll be fine, it's just over the hill". And it was raining. After that, the rest of the trip was absolutely fantastic, but if someone had come along that night with a helicopter, I'd have taken it.
After university, I went overseas with a friend, and we backpacked our way through Italy and Spain. We were lucky because my friend had an aunt and uncle with a house in Naples. As part of the English Consulate there, they had this amazing house, a chef and a maid. But before we went, heaps of people said, "You don't want to go to Naples. You'll get pick-pocketed. You'll be mugged. There's dog shit everywhere." But it was amazing.
Every year now, going back to my parents' roots, my husband Shane and I try to go camping and explore somewhere different. Having kids, you see things through different eyes and I really enjoy that they're older, 6 and 8, as we don't need a pram or the kitchen sink because little kids and holidays don't mix.
Now I'm back on the family farm but, farming being what it is, we realised early on we couldn't rely on the farm's income so we thought we'd do weddings. The old homestead was beautiful but in a poor state of repair so we did it up, made the gardens beautiful but weddings were more complicated than we expected. Things naturally evolved and we focused on accommodation. But Glorit doesn't have much pulling factor so we developed 20km of walking tracks across our farm. It borders the Kaipara Harbour, the entire farm covers 3500 acres, there's salt marsh, wetlands, coast, bush and we retired about 800 acres from farming to create a conservation project.
Because Shane is really into birds and is passionate about conservation, he drew my parents in and they started trapping when we were asked if we wanted to release kiwi. Working with Kiwis For Kiwi, they come up with a management programme for looking after Coromandel brown kiwi. The paperwork was ridiculous but we got through it and now we have a population of about 85 kiwi, having started with 40 four years ago.
But our farm isn't big enough to sustain a growing population of kiwi so Mum and Dad set up The Forest Bridge Trust. Getting neighbours involved, the idea is that we build a "bridge" of forest all the way to Pakiri, Omaha and Tawharanui, so the kiwi can do their thing.
We take care of the hospitality side of things. The walking packages are fully catered. Mum's a passionate vegetable gardener, we have massive heritage orchards and food is one of my passions. I feel incredibly lucky to be doing this, it's such a cool lifestyle. I get to be a stay-at-home mum with a business that keeps me active and meeting wonderful people. I think the biggest lesson I've learnt is not to undervalue how special what we've got here is.
Further information: see mataia.co.nz