I moved to Castlecliff in August out of necessity more than anything else.

I had been living out past Upokongaro, paying the price of a rental I could barely afford and constantly cursing the morning commute that led me across Dublin St bridge.

I moved my belongings into my new residence in the beachside suburb as quickly as I could and once I was settled in, I messaged a friend telling him about the big move.

"Honestly, lock everything before you go anywhere," he messaged back.

Advertisement

It wasn't the first time I had heard or seen Castlecliff mentioned negatively, but this made me think that perhaps people did have a good reason to put the place down.

If you Google Castlecliff, a lot of links will be generated about how the suburb has turned the tide, which suggests that at some stage, it really was in dire straits.

Click on the news button and you will be greeted by headlines about gangs, homicide, shooting and murder.

I am yet to see any of that for myself. For as long as I have been living there, I have considered it to be the best move that I've ever made.

Matthew Edmonds is the owner of Lucky Bar + Kitchen on Wilson St in Whanganui and he's a Castlecliff old boy.

He grew up hearing that hate for his suburb and he doesn't understand it.

"It always baffled me with this suggestion that Castlecliff was some sort of s***hole," he says.

"People take pot shots at living in a coastal settlement and it seems mad when you're out there watching this most incredible sunset out into the ocean."

Edmonds grew up on Karaka St and spent some time at Aranui School before his family decided to move to another part of town.

Matt and his partner Georgie Ormond run Lucky together and Edmonds is known to take the stage and slap the bass as part of The Pussywhippers. Photo / Bevan Conley
Matt and his partner Georgie Ormond run Lucky together and Edmonds is known to take the stage and slap the bass as part of The Pussywhippers. Photo / Bevan Conley

The street is named after the karaka tree, one of several streets in Castlecliff named after trees by Arthur Bignell, John Wells, Gifford Marshall and Robert Russell.

These men set up the Matipo Land Company and at the time, they anticipated the tramline that would arrive in the next subdivision of the suburb.

The other street names included Manuka, Rangiora, Karewa, Matai, Kamahi, Ngaio and Taupata which were designed to be part of a new township called Westbourne.

"By the time we moved, I had the surfing bug. I used to have to put my first surfboard under my arm and pedal back to the beach," Edmonds says.

Surfer Rhys John catches a big wave at Morgan St beach. Photo file / Bevan Conley
Surfer Rhys John catches a big wave at Morgan St beach. Photo file / Bevan Conley

"The home break is Morgan St which is where the river comes out. That's sort of home turf. I grew up on main beach."

Edmonds has been surfing for more than 40 years now and is nearing the 2000 mark for number of surfs over that period of time.

He considers the coastline from Castlecliff to Taranaki as being world class because it's rarely flat and can be surfed quite consistently.

Edmonds has two distinct childhood memories.

"I remember running across the hot sand with a piece of polystyrene under my arm which someone had given us to go surfing. I might have been about 5," he says.

"Also, my parents had the good luck to buy a television set for the moon landing which happened in 1969. We had one of the first black and white tellies in our area."

He recalled watching Doctor Who in his living room with about 40 other children and all of them being absolutely terrified of the Daleks.

Later in life, Edmonds left Whanganui as an angsty teenager, with no plans of ever returning.

"I said, 'sayonara Whangadoodle, I'm out,' but through a chapter of events, children came along. I was working in London at that stage and didn't want kids in the big smoke.

"I came back for a week to try and sort things out and went to work for my father. He was a painter, I'm from a long line of house, commercial and industrial painters.

"I went to work for him for a week and here we are 25 years later."

After selling Edmonds Industrial Coatings in 2014, Edmonds took on Lucky Bar + Kitchen which features live music on a regular basis. Photo / Stuart Munro
After selling Edmonds Industrial Coatings in 2014, Edmonds took on Lucky Bar + Kitchen which features live music on a regular basis. Photo / Stuart Munro

Edmonds returned to Whanganui with his sons Max and Ben and they moved to Castlecliff at the first opportunity because he didn't want his boys to miss the adventure of the suburb.

For all the dog-walks, surfing, fishing and good times swimming at Castlecliff Beach, it has also been the location of many incidents.

Wrecked ships have washed up on shore, as well as the occasional whale, and unfortunately people have drowned there as well.

In 1902 after two men died while swimming it was suggested that two posts should be rammed into the sand with a rope between them acting as a safety net.

Eventually, because of the number of people visiting the beach and the number of people who were drowning, a surf lifesaving club was formed. It still exists today.

When heading towards Castlecliff you will see a sign that reads: Heads Rd Industrial Hub. For a time Edmonds was a part of that.

Long after the closing of Scott's Fellmongery, Gilberd And Sons Soap Manufacturers and Loan And Mercantile Woolstores came Edmonds Industrial Coatings.

The building is based on Hinau St and the business completes industrial coating projects on things such as bridges, gas fields and power stations.

Edmond's management team purchased the business in 2014.

"The business by nature was very dangerous, handling steel, being underground and being high up on things. Safety was paramount," Edmonds says.

"I was aware we'd been at it 25 years and not killed anybody and that was a very real prospect, so I effectively made myself redundant."

The Pussy Whippers playing at the Duncan Pavillion, Castlecliff. Photo file / Bevan Conley
The Pussy Whippers playing at the Duncan Pavillion, Castlecliff. Photo file / Bevan Conley

An avid bass guitarist and member of surf punk band The Pussywhippers, it made sense that Edmonds would then move on to something musical.

He and partner Georgie Ormond have been running Lucky Bar + Kitchen for 15 months now and they believe they're making inroads towards getting on the national circuit.

The couple also finished building a new house on Karaka St about 12 months ago.

"I can see the roof of the house that I grew up in," Edmonds says.

"Some might say it's a bit odd, but I get a lot of pleasure out of that."

He praised Progress Castlecliff for its efforts to make the suburb a more attractive place to visit or live and singled out the skate park in particular.

"An amazing team got together to make the skate park out there. It's a nationally recognised, incredible thing and the kids lived in that if the surf was no good.

"It's been really nice to see it push forward in the last year or so, with the introduction of a cafe out there of some repute.

"It's magnificent for us as residents not to have to trek into town, you feel a bit left out when you haven't got those facilities in a suburb."

Castlecliff continues to progress, with the Mountains to Sea Cycle Trail ending at Morgan St being something Edmonds is very excited about.

"It's evolving at a really nice rate, it's inevitable that we will need facilities at Morgan St, changing facilities and toilet facilities," he says.

"It's absurd that we haven't got them at the moment. It's one of the most used areas in town, there are people fishing or surfing or looking or visiting all the time.

"The council needs to pull its finger out and get some facilities out there."

Supporting projects like this and fixing up the Surf Club, which he is a member of, are some of the main focuses for Edmonds.

Not gang culture in Castlecliff, which he has always heard about and believes is blown out of proportion.

"Castlecliff has always been tarred with the gang-land brush. Gang association and culture in this town runs very deep, but nobody supports violence in any shape or form.

"The connotation that you hear again and again is that it's some sort of gang haven and that's quite unfair. The place is no better or worse than anywhere else.

"It's a community of people that watch out for each other all the time and I've had nothing but fantastic love and support from it."

The love of his wife Mary Ellen brought Rohan Goodsir to Whanganui and their shared love of living near water brought them both to Castlecliff. Photo / Bevan Conley
The love of his wife Mary Ellen brought Rohan Goodsir to Whanganui and their shared love of living near water brought them both to Castlecliff. Photo / Bevan Conley

I see sunlight through bleary eyes when I wake up at my Castlecliff address and pull back big blue curtains to reveal the golden circle in the sky.

A light breeze blows through my hair as I walk down Cornfoot St, I see people walking their dogs, and I see a strange contrast of old, decrepit houses and modern, new ones.

Finally I get to Rangiora St, where I walk among the cactus and succulents plants before passing Ivan Vostinar's vibrant and spacious gallery.

I arrive at one of my favourite spots, The Citadel, where I meet Castlecliff's newest resident.

Rohan Goodsir was born in Australia before moving to the United States. Now he is a proud resident of Castlecliff.

What brought him to Whanganui?

Love.

"I went to a boarding school in Connecticut and my wife - who's from Martha's Vineyard, just off the coast of Massachusetts - she went to the same boarding school," Goodsir says.

"We didn't know each other then, we actually met at [the school's] 25th reunion in 2007 and I'm here thanks to her."

While working at one of her father's hotels in Martha's Vineyard 30 years ago, Goodsir's wife, Mary Ellen, met two holiday-goers, Rochelle and Sheryl Handley.

"She became very good friends with them. [Mary Ellen's family] looked after the Handleys, who said, 'we'd love to see you again, come to our place,' so she first visited Whanganui in 1989."

"She immediately fell in love with the place and she's always wanted to live here."

Goodsir left Sydney at 8 years old and moved just outside of New York. He worked in television in the city, later moving to Boston.

Last October, the couple flew to Australia to visit Rohan's relatives and Mary Ellen told her husband that she really wanted him to see Whanganui.

The Goodsirs managed to find a home that suits them and Rohan expects more people will start snapping up old Castlecliff houses and modernising them. Photo / Bevan Conley
The Goodsirs managed to find a home that suits them and Rohan expects more people will start snapping up old Castlecliff houses and modernising them. Photo / Bevan Conley

"We stopped in here for a week and a half and I realised right away what she had fallen in love with," Goodsir says.

"Boston's great, don't get me wrong, but it's a big city with insane traffic and everybody's got an agenda. People are sort of pushy, they've got somewhere to go, something to do.

"This is such a laid-back place, almost the complete opposite to that."

The Goodsirs are both water people and the beach was a big part of their attraction to Castlecliff as opposed to other Whanganui suburbs.

Rohan lived close to beaches in Sydney and New York. Martha's Vineyard, where Mary Ellen comes from, is a holiday island.

The movie Jaws was filmed there and big names such as James Taylor and Carly Simon live on the island, while many other celebrities visit it on holiday.

Before visiting Whanganui, Goodsir researched the River City. Now that he's arrived, he is looking forward to learning more about his new suburb.

One thing he is looking forward to discovering is the Māori history of Castlecliff, which is a feature subject all of its own.

The Māori name for Castlecliff is Kokohuia, but that name was never adopted by Europeans and the name Castlecliff was first printed in a Wellington newspaper.

It is said that when Kupe arrived he named Castlecliff "Kai Hau o Kupe", which is translated by many to mean "the place where Kupe ate the wind" after he struggled to find food.

Other areas of interest were the port, the Tramway Board, the Harbour Board and railway companies.

"I did a bit of research on people's thoughts and there was a lot of negativity, people saying there are no jobs here and gang warfare's really bad," Goodsir says.

"I've lived in New York and Boston. I've seen gang warfare and it's not here. Being a musician, I've been out fairly late and the streets are so quiet."

Goodsir is a drummer and regularly performs and enjoys performances at Lucky, which he calls one of his favourite hangouts.

He and Mary Ellen love the arts scene and restaurants in Whanganui. When he's not doing recreational activities, Goodsir works from home as a consultant.

Since 2003, he has been working in the beef and lamb industry.

"I put together a daily news report that goes out in email form to about 1000 people around the world," Goodsir says.

"It's all heads of meat companies or people in government organisations in the agriculture sector."

The report is sent to six continents and the content within it covers commodities, trade deals, trade bans and import and export information.

Goodsir is also writing a novel and is currently looking for some work to do during the day.

He believes Castlecliff's "rough image" probably has more to do with the older generation rather than all the new people he sees trickling in around him.

"People are discovering how amazing Castlecliff is and they realise that these property values are going to keep going up.

"As time goes on, people are going to come in, knock down these wrecks and put up really nice places. I would imagine in 10 years you wouldn't even recognise the suburb."

He said if he was going to whine, the suburb could do with an ATM. And if the summer is going to be as busy as expected, a couple more places to hang out would be good.

But overall, he is stoked with the move that he has made.

"It's funny because when you come up Heads Rd, you've got all these industrial buildings and you see a sign that says 'Hey, welcome to Castlecliff, beachgoers' paradise' or something like that - and right behind it there's a slaughterhouse.

"But once you get past that and come down to the beach area, you realise you're in paradise."