ARTICLE Patricia Moore
With a mix of rural landscapes, sandy beaches and crashing surf, historic settlements and bustling seaside towns, Rodney is an area that attracts weekend visitors and holiday-makers. It’s also home to growing numbers of people who’ve discovered one of the Super-City’s best kept secrets!
For years the range of leisure activities and attractions, for all ages and stages, plus its proximity to Auckland, mean Rodney District has been a playground for city dwellers. Water-related activities - swimming, surfing, fishing and boating - are big attractions but so too are the gannets at Muriwai, the vineyards, cafes and galleries, golf, horse riding, walking and cycling. The marine reserve at Leigh is one of New Zealand’s most accessible and the ferry from Sandspit Wharf at Warkworth provides a regular service to Kawau Island, and the home of colonial governor, Sir George Grey.
Rodney also boasts natural thermal springs at Waiwera and Parakai both of which have attracted visitors since the 1880s. Back then Parakai Springs were little more than a hole in ground surrounded by bush. Today both offer a wide range of family fun and relaxation.
Rodney District has long been a popular option for retirees (In the 2013 census, the number of residents 65 years and over in the Rodney Local Board Area had increased by 49% from 2006), but that’s changing, with many younger home-owners enjoying all the benefits of city life in a more family-oriented environment. (Since 2010 Rodney District has been part of Auckland City) Residential development in Rodney is largely low to medium density, with plenty of open space and gardens. “We find it’s well worth the drive to live just north of the city and have easy access to all the beautiful beaches Rodney has to offer,” says Zones Landscaping director Judd Stratful.
Rodney has two distinct coastlines; to the east lies the Hauraki Gulf and to the west, the rugged coast of the Tasman Sea and Kaipara Harbour, recognised as one of the world’s largest harbours. For centuries the Kaipara was both a trading-route and source of food for Maori. By the late 1830s European traders were risking their lives and their cargoes sailing over the treacherous Kaipara bar (it’s reckoned around 45 ships were wrecked) and, as timber milling operations grew and Kauri gum became a major export earner, for a time the harbour became one of the busiest in the country.
The Rodney District is steeped in history; a feature across the area, particularly in Helensville, is the number of Victorian and Edwardian residential buildings. In Puhoi, established in 1863 by settlers from Bohemia (now the Czech Republic), they celebrate their cultural heritage but are perhaps equally well known today for the quality of the cheeses produced there. Puhoi is also ‘the gateway to Matakana ‘coast and country’, home of the weekly farmers’ market that showcases local produce ranging from fruit and vegetables to cheese, olive oil, plants and more.
Two quite different coastal aspects mean landscaping in the Rodney District offers a number of challenges, says Judd. “While there are many sheltered bays, many parts are exposed to salt-laden winds that can be damaging for plants. The key to success is planting an effective shelter to protect those less tolerant.” Like much of the greater Auckland region, Rodney District enjoys a sub-tropical climate with rainfall averaging between 1200mm and 2000mm. Soils in coastal areas are variable, he says. “A mix of light sandy soils and clay, but an advantage of being near the coast is the abundance of seaweed that can be collected and used as compost to improve the quality.”
The area from Whangaparaoa to Waiwera bordering the Hauraki Gulf includes a number of smaller towns and commercial centres - Stanmore Bay, Arkles Bay, Army Bay, Manly, Red Beach, Gulf Harbour, Silverdale and Stillwater – and is known as the Hibiscus Coast. The name hasn’t happened by accident. The region’s mild climate makes the sub-tropical hibiscus a popular choice. Judd says, “Plant them while the soil is warm, and prune heavily to encourage new growth. The ideal is an open, sunny, frost-free garden bed devoted to hibiscus, so they’re not competing for root space or nutrients.”
Judd looks forward to creating interesting outdoor living spaces for home-owners across Rodney. “Relaxing indoor/outdoor living could have been invented for Rodney,” he says. “Why would you want to be anywhere else?”
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*All information is believed to be true at time of publishing and is subject to change.