Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

13 December 2009

N.Z. House & Cottage 21. Beach Road, Kohukohu

I wrote and illustrated ‘New Zealand House and Cottage’. It was published in 1997. It’s a snapshot of some historic New Zealand homes - both grand and modest - as they were preserved at the end of the 20th century.
I have decided to share some of the entries from the book from time to time on this blog.


There’s sometimes a sub-tropical feel about Kohukohu; a tangible, scented humidity upon which tui songs toll from the surrounding hills: there’s a sound of running water from overgrown runnels and the shadowed sides of fence posts are padded with emerald mosses. It would not take nature long to reclaim the town.

Indeed, when I first saw Kohukohu thirty-five years ago, my impression was of neglect. Rotting timbers peeled off old houses whose mildewed windows were cracked and broken, and road seal crumbled. It seemed that apart from being the northern terminal of the Hokianga Ferry all its glory was in a past when its harbour bay bustled with the scream of milling kauri and a latter day dairy factory flourished until its closure in 1957.

But I have seen Kohukohu re-born. The colour has come back to its face. They say it’s because of newcomers with different ways of living; they’ve brought their children with them and increased the population, and they’ve seen the potential that lies in the recovery of distressed villas and cottages.

The Beach Road house - a residence expressing a certain social eminence - was built in 1889 by Fred Halliwell (who also owned Kohukohu’s first motor car in 1907). In the 1920s it was occupied by the manager of the Rangiora Timber Company, after whom came a train of owners: McArthur, a dentist; J.H.A. Skipper, printer and publisher of the Hokianga Star (who ran it as a boarding house); Doctors Rule and Alexander (in the late thirties); the Methodists; then farmer Brian Gundry, followed in the 1980s by Sue and Alan Clarkson, he a veterinary surgeon.

It’s had coats of many colours, some more controversial than others, no doubt. Not to worry, it’s the structure that matters, not its colour, and its fresh, pink coat offered an opportunity for me to use some of the rarer pigments in my paint box.


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By Don Donovan