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20 years –I can hardly believe it!
A split second decision made in January 1993 for what I thought was going to be a bit of fun for a couple of months. Little did I realise!
So What is it About Poronui?
Many people have experienced the ‘magic’ of Poronui. From my first summer here - whether it was gathering armfuls of fox gloves or discovering ancient trees and treasures - the property had that magical effect on me. I well remember the day Paddy Clark and I walked to the old sawmill site where 40/50 years before teams of men laboured in remote and difficult conditions. I could feel their spirits, it fair made the hair on the back of my neck stand up!
But the ‘magic’ of Poronui to me, is not only the place but also the people. Great people and many characters have been attracted to work, to guide, to visit and to own the property. People become instant friends with many, many remaining life long.
The Beginning for Me
To give you an idea of my ‘day one’ at Poronui. Simon Dickie, then owner of the Lodge picked me up in Napier. Following a visit to one of the fruit and vegie stalls on the side of the road we set off on State Highway 5. Some 1 ¼ hours later we turned into Taharua Road and shortly onto metal road. We soon reached the properties northern boundary, the metal road continued mile after mile, farm gate after farm gate, I think I counted 12 that were closed! We eventually reached the ‘lodge’ – not as I had anticipated I hasten to add. I guess the lack of electricity shouldn’t have been a surprise. Suffice to say, having given me the conducted tour, Simon departed leaving me to cook a leg of lamb for guests due in off the river that evening. I found some wild mint to complete the dish and subsequently discover the mint had been given to us by the old hermit Punchy Wallace
The Lodge consisted of three guest rooms, one known affectionately as the ‘honeymoon suite’. The main ‘lodge room’ was where I cooked, baked, we dined, clothes were dried, flies were tied, stories and jokes were told and retold and repairs carried out. We even watched the then very popular movie ‘A River Runs Through It’ huddled round a tiny camera screen (about half the size of an IPad screen) hoping the battery would last for the entire movie. We may have lost something with the screen size but being without electricity for a whole season it was a real treat. Thank you Jim for the entertainment.
The property was undergoing significant change. The planting of Radiata Pine and Eucalyptus Nitens was under way. Scrub was crushed and burned, furrows created with a v-blade on a bulldozer and trees planted each winter. The sheep and cattle station was becoming a tree farm. Fences were removed, wire rolled up, posts removed – the gates to the Fishing Lodge disappeared!
The attractions or challenges depending on your point of view included juggling fridge space for beer, white wine and food, maintaining the tilly lamps, the water supply, keeping rabbits, hares and possums off the herb garden, the BBQ / hot tub combo, placing the weekly order for supplies over the RT (radio telephone) to Simon in Taupo. Then in 1994 poling guided parties in the little punt across the river to fish the upper Mohaka following a big storm when the bridge below the Lodge got washed out.
Being a country girl at heart I embraced the challenges and added many new skills to my repertoire – the most remarkable was removing the back axel from a Land Rover Series 2 single handed with instructions over the phone and a selection of make shift tools! Other skills included skinning and breaking down deer, rabbits and hares and learning to fly fish of course.
So What Has Changed?
Well in 1998 we moved to a new lodge site complete with electricity, phones, hair dryers, dish washer, laundry facilities – pure luxury! In choosing the new site and the design of the building, proximity to the river, morning and evening sun, an open plan main lodge, separate cabins, space, adequate storage facilities were some of the important features. We quickly settled into our new home and returning guests were suitably impressed. We even transplanted some of Punchy’s mint. There were new owners, the Blake Family bought both the lodge business and the property and the tree planting stopped.
Development began in earnest with the building of the Blake House, the Safari Camp, the Stables, the Sporting Clays Range and the fencing for the 3,000 acre game ranch was started. We became connected to the rest of the world by internet!
With a 16,000 acre play ground right on our door step we began to add more activities. The development and enhancement of the facilities and activities has continues with the current owners The Westervelt Company NZ Ltd. Poronui has truly become a world class sporting facility and appeals to avid sports people, business executives, families or those simply looking for a wilderness retreat.
Poronui, the property is currently undergoing another major change and has nearly gone full circle. The Eucalyptus and Pine trees are being replaced by pasture for our deer farming and Angus / Wagyu breeding programme and manuka for our Manuka honey business.
What Remains the Same?
Being part of the journey has been and is very exciting. I have been joined along the way by many who have shared and continue to share the same passion. While the Poronui family grows each year there are many who also celebrate 10 – 15+ years. There must be something in that ‘magic’ – the place and the people.
Many of our regular guests are joining us over the season. It will be a summer of celebrations right to the middle of March to include as many people as possible. The celebrations will take many forms - joining regulars for a day on the river, a hike through the bush, a twilight ride, afternoon tea (cucumber sandwiches, madeira cake and Earl Grey tea) by the lake, sundowners (champagne and green lipped mussels) at Red Hut, a spit roast at the Safari Camp. I’m sure we will think of more…..
What a thrill it would be to celebrate with the whole family. Do let me know if you can make it.
[Please write to Eve, call her, or post your comments on this page, thanks!]