Being Here – Why people leave their city lives for a home in the Wairarapa

Steven and Mary

It was the weather that finally did it. Really, that city is only fit for penguins and masochists.

They were over it, had reached a stage in life when, although not retired, there was no need to be holed up in a big house on Wellington’s south coast watching the rain and seawater soup drive horizontal past the picture window. Friends had lived in Masterton, had often talked about the distinct seasons, the lovely evenings with the sun setting on the verandah, glass of the local in hand. Sounds like us, they thought. Cheap houses, too – we could put some aside for later. Goodbye, then, to those ‘nothing’ days, farewell the indeterminate gloom, hello summer, autumn, winter and spring.

Thirty degree summer days are bone dry, not a humid fug like you’d get in Auckland, and when they take the washing off the line the towels are crisp and crunchy like poppadoms. To them the winter frosts are so pretty and the cold is forgiven because a nice day will come and they can light the log fire tonight and be snug behind the curtains. Spring bulbs flower along the rural roadsides, bright yellow in the noonday sun. And clear autumn evenings when a million silver stars wink at them, saying “good decision”.

Chris and Lizzie

The Skytower recedes slowly in the rear-view mirror and green fields lie ahead. Manukau, Takanini, Drury, Bombay, the motorway exits tick quickly by and will soon be replaced by the rolling hills of northern Waikato and the Hauraki Plain. A few hundred kilometers to drive, seven or so hours to a new life with no plans, nothing organised aside from a small rural property which will be a home of some sort, for now at least.

Crazy. Everybody told him so. High paying job, nice villa in a nice part of town, kids at the nice leafy school up the street – why chuck it all in? But even at that distance the Wairarapa has a magnetic attraction impossible to repel. Is it the luscious landscape, the big sky for thinking big thoughts? Or perhaps the gentle pace and gentler people? It’s certainly the clean air for the boys to breathe, the pretty little rural school for them to learn important things at, things you don’t learn at city schools, like why the firewood shed is inhabited by huhu grubs.

The Hendersons

It’s funny how they moaned when they were here as kids. Nothing to do, they complained. Masterhole they called it, Cardytown, Greydom. No shopping, no clubs, no fun. Can’t wait to get out of the place.

But one by one they’re returning. Back to our new place, or to buy a block right near where we farmed back then. Just for a little while, she said, I’m sick of travelling. It won’t be for long, he assured, I just need to make a few dollars, buy a house in town. And the youngest one, she tried flatting in Christchurch but didn’t last – too noisy, too fast.

The winged one has nested, found a good bloke – her high school sweetheart! – and got settled, milking cows at Parkvale (we will be grandparents in five and a half months). Her brother has built a house – just out of Mauriceville – and is happy there, alone for now, with his dogs. And the young one, she tried city life again but she’s back at home, leaving a trail of broken hearted young men no doubt. Maybe one will follow her here.


She’d often noticed that there’s a certain bend on the downhill side where the whole valley opens up before your eyes like an oil-on-canvas landscape. And how it always seems to be bathed in sunshine while everything behind her is gritty and grey. And how much she was beginning to resent that haul back over that hill, tick tock, by the clock, every Monday at dawn.

I’d love to get away from all that ‘corporate wife’ stuff, she thought, give the children a provincial upbringing, not have to fuss about the house so much. But I’ll need to put a very good case. Decent schools? Check. Our current property suitable? Yep. Social possibilities? Well, it’ll be different, but there’ll be as many as we need. Proximity to the extended family? They’ll love to visit.

Would you mind the commute, honey? Not at all darling, not at all.

(First published in Wairarapa Lifestyle magazine, Winter 2010)