Waitaki Whitestone Geopark

October 23, 2019

Waitaki Whitestone Geopark is seeking to be Australasia’s first Geopark.

This gives a glimpse of some of the attractions:

 


Still shearing at 80

February 23, 2019

Young Farmers’ Agri-Kids completion at the North Otago A&P Show today attracted 50 teams from North Otago and South and Mid Canterbury.

There was also someone a wee bit older – Tom Marshall who is in his 80s and still shearing his own sheep.


Grow North Otago

April 4, 2018

Grow North Otago is selling the charms of the district.

 


Oamaru trumps Timaru

March 16, 2018

Stuff is doing a series of stories on rivalries between provincial towns and cities.

It started with Timaru vs Oamaru for the pride of the south.

Audrey Malone talked up Timaru and Hamish Rutherford penned an ode to Oamaru.

. . . It’s amazing what kids take for granted.

Only when I went to university did it dawn on me that the local bank did not necessarily have giant Corinthian columns at the entrance (or that the tellers may not know you by name).

You might not see what is remarkable about Oamaru if you have simply driven through it. From State Highway 1 it would be possible to imagine Oamaru was just another provincial New Zealand town, so very long that its main purpose is to slow you down on the way to somewhere else.

But I was lucky enough to call Oamaru home: grandiose banks, halls, churches, pubs, municipal buildings and many large houses, built on early economic prosperity and the availability of a distinctive locally quarried limestone were the norm.

Let me sing its praises. At 14,000, the population is hardly bigger than it was in the 1960s, but North Otago’s dominant town is arguably much more prosperous than many others which have grown much larger.

Oamaru has world-class offerings for food and culture, with a rich tapestry of history.

It has good cafes and a couple of restaurants which would continue to do fine if they were in bigger towns. The brewery, Scotts, relocated from Auckland, is well known for its gluten-free variety by New Zealand’s booming GF army. The Whitestone cheese factory sells to supermarkets in every part of New Zealand – and has attracted a few celebrity fans in Hollywood. It has contributed great literature, from Janet Frame to Greg McGee.

There is a lolly factory, which opened in 1949. Rainbow Confectionery recently attempted to keep Pineapple Lumps production in New Zealand after Dunedin’s Cadbury factory closes. The owners, Mondelez, refused, sending manufacturing offshore, with every other Cadbury and Pascall product. So may I offer you Rainbow’s Pineapple Chunks, available online and in the factory store?

Some of the employment is more old-school: Pukeuri, to the north, still has its freezing works, with dairy farms all the way up the beautiful Waitaki Valley. Oamaru is a good place if you are willing to work hard.

New Zealand’s first shipment of frozen meat was sent to Britain from the port just to the south. The port may now be insignificant in shipping terms compared to Timaru, but it was in Oamaru that the Terra Nova landed, carrying news that the great British explorer Robert Scott had died in his failed bid to reach the South Pole first.

A key measure of a New Zealand town’s class is in its coffee, but despite living in Timaru for a spell and still passing through several times a year, I still wouldn’t know where to go. In Oamaru, head to the area with most of the nice buildings and take your pick.

There are many great things to say about Timaru. Like almost anywhere you go, it is full of very nice people. A nationally competitive motorsport community recently gave us international rally driver Hayden Paddon. But Paddon is no Richie McCaw, who started in North Otago before going on to bigger things. . . 

Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, who lives in Oamaru, thinks it is the best wee town in the South Island. She moved there with her husband and young family decades ago, and won’t be leaving any time soon.

“We moved 30-odd years, and it’s largely because of the people we wouldn’t move away,” Dean says.

She usually flies in and out of Timaru.

“I actually like Timaru, I just like Oamaru a whole heap more.” . . .

Oamaru and Timaru are often confused by outsiders because they sound similar.

If there’s any rivalry between the two, it’s pretty low key.

For many of us on the right side of the Waitaki River, Timare is just a place you drive through on the way north.


Alps 2 Ocean Ultra starts today

February 25, 2018

When Mike Sandri first suggested athletes from round the world might like to run the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway, and would pay well for doing so, some locals were skeptical.

But months of hard work by him and his team paid off and the race starts today:

A first for New Zealand, the ultra endurance race will involve athletes running self-supported on and around the 300km-plus Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail, which extends from Aoraki Mt Cook to Oamaru, over seven stages in seven days.

As it stands, stages one and two (53.85km) on day one have a 14hr cut-off; stage three (51.34km) on day two a 13hr cutoff; stage four (86.6km) on days three and four a 34hr cut-off; stage five (43.76km) on day five a 12hr cut-off; stage six (52.66km) on day six a 13hr cutoff; and stage seven (28.67km) on the final day a 6hr cut-off. Checkpoints will be set up every 10km to 15km, offering water and electrolytes.

Self-supported runners will have to carry their own food, sleeping mat, sleeping bag and other compulsory items for the entire seven days, while supported runners will have their food and bedding carried for them to the end of each stage.

They will still have to carry all compulsory gear and food for that day. Each team will comprise up to four runners, and each member will carry the same as an individual. Its origins go back to September 2016, when Mr Sandri took part in the Canyon to Canyon Ultra, a self-supported foot race covering about 280km over six gruelling days in testing conditions in the United States.

When talking to his fellow competitors, they queried him as to why there was no organised ultra race in New Zealand.

“I thought that was actually a pretty good question,” he said.

Mr Sandri believed the terrain from Aoraki Mt Cook to Oamaru would be perfect for such as race, and when he returned from the Canyon to Canyon event, he set his idea in motion.

More than a year later, everything is set to go.

The 126 athletes who will compete hail from 15 countries with a split of about 50-50 between males and females.

Just under half of the field is made up of athletes from New Zealand. . . 

The Alps 2 Ocean Ultra website says:

From the base of New Zealand’s Highest mountain, Mount Cook, to the small, historic town of Oamaru, perched on the edge of the Pacific Ocean, this rugged 316km race passes by eight lakes, takes in valleys, rivers and diverse terrain. It is set to challenge the hardiest athlete, yet allow virgin ultra-athletes to test their mettle.

Run by an enthusiastic, committed team of tireless volunteers, backed by a generous range of sponsors, all proceeds from Alps 2 Ocean are heading right back into the community and the uptake of registrations means that a difference will be made. The event answers the question about why our country has not yet hosted an ultra-staged race, and the uptake of entries shows the need there was for it.

Race goals:

1.       To bring people to Godzone and showcase our amazing country. Check. √

2.       To host an inclusive race – catering for the elite athlete to the bucket lister. Check √

3.       To contribute any profits to the community, with a focus on youth. We’ll make this transparent via our social media channels.

I am in awe of anyone who is fit enough to run 316 kilometres and equally in awe of Sandri who had the vision for the race and the work down by him, his team of volunteers and the sponsors who have made it happen.

(P.S. – if you click on the website link you’ll see some of the beautiful countryside through which the race will go).

 


Steampunk capital

August 2, 2017

Steampunk is tomorrow as it used to be – a mixture of science fiction, art, and imagination with a sense of the absurd.

Oamaru is New Zealand’s steampunk capital:

You can find out more at Steampunk NZ and Steampunk HQ.


Cycleway success

July 5, 2017

Are the cycle trails delivering the jobs and economic benefits they promised?

The 83km Timber Trail, which runs between Pureora and Ongarue in the King Country, was one of the earlier trails to be completed, in 2013.

Last year 6500 people rode the trail – and many used the services of Paul Goulding’s Epic Cycle Adventures.

“We started off three-and-a-half years ago with a van, a trailer and four bicycles, and now we’ve got three vans [and] 40-odd bicycles,” Mr Goulding says.

“Business is about 40 percent up each year, so … we are very optimistic.” . .

The Central Otago Rail Trail shows the potential from cycleway.

It took time for people to realise the opportunities for the provision of accommodation, food and other goods and services but the trail now brings thousands of visitors and their money to remote rural communities.

It has brought life to dying towns and provided off-farm income for people on previously isolated properties.

This is being replicated in other parts of the country as new cycleway take off.

One of the more recent success stories is the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway which starts near Mount Cook and finishes in Oamaru.

Not all the trail is off road yet and there are long stretches where people have yet to seize the opportunities to feed, water, accommodate service and sell to the cyclists and their support crews.

But even in its infancy the trail is attracting thousands of cyclists and will host the sold-out Alps 2 Ocean Ultra next summer.

Here’s an appetiser for the trail:


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