I often think about how much Matakana has changed since we first came across the place. We used to travel through Matakana regularly as Aucklanders driving to our old family bach in Omaha in the late 80's. In those days there wasn't even a roundabout or a Farmer's Market, yet alone a village to speak of. The Rusty Pelican pizza place and also a petrol station is all I remember. Matakana was just a place you drove through en route to the beach.
However in saying that we mustn't forget a few of the 'Matakana originals' who arrived in Matakana in the 70's and 80's and who paved the way for the rest of us. The iconic
Morris & James on Tongue Farm Rd, just minutes from the centre of Matakana is the first one that comes to mind. M&J was set up by Anthony Morris and his wife Sue James in the late 70's. It was originally designed as a creative community for artisans to create aesthetically pleasing as well as useful pieces of pottery which would be bold and last the test of time. M&J pieces are of course now known for their bold form and vibrant colour glazes. The first business to put Matakana on the tourist map, M&J is still there and more famous than ever, having now established a wide client base throughout New Zealand as well as internationally.
Heron's Flight Vineyard, planted by Mary Evans and Dave Hoskins in Sharp Road during the late 80's, is one of the other Matakana 'originals' set up way before the rest of us even knew Matakana existed. These wonderful people have always endeavoured to be respectful of the land and adopt sustainable practises. The first people to start growing the Italian grape varieties sangiovese and dolcetta grapes in NZ, they are now famous for their boutique wines. Their very limited release wines are well-regarded, and can be found on the wine lists of many top restaurants and specialist wine stores. Mary and Dave are still running Heron's Flight and are the most friendly welcoming couple - their cellar door is open everyday for wine tastings.
Finally, Rainbow Valley Farm, at the forefront of the permaculture movement along Matakana Valley Road must also take pride of place amongst the pioneers of Matakana. RV Farm was also established in the late 80's and was the vision of Joe Polaischer and his wife Trish Allen, both of whom shared a deep commitment to environmental awareness and practices. Having taken over a steep, gorse-infected 20 hectare block of land, the couple set about transforming it into a permaculture and education centre in their quest to educate people to avert what they saw as an environmental catastrophe on the horizon. Twenty years of hard work saw the property metamorphose complete with an earth house with grass roof, garden tee-pee, drumming circle, forest, sugar cane field, rice paddies, orchard, happy animals and all number of plants growing - and all the while practicing sustainable small farming and permaculture practices. I was lucky enough to visit Rainbow Valley farm myself whilst Trish still lived there - and attend one of the permaculture courses on offer. Sadly Joe died suddenly in 2009, and although woofers were regular helpers at the farm, Trish found with all of her international travel and growing number of speaking engagements as an authority on permaculture and other environmental issues, it was all a bit much so she moved on. Not however, without taking the wood they had milled from the trees they had grown, with her to build her own eco-house in Matakana Village. What an amazing story -and it's true!
It is interesting to see all of these three pioneers of sustainable rural living finding themselves in what was then an unremarkable unknown spot on the north Auckland map, drawn by no other than the beauty of the place and it's natural resources - just waiting to be nurtured with the greatest respect for the land. Remarkable people I say!! 'Matakana Originals' - respect!
Well times they have a changed! Now, on a busy Saturday morning it is not unusual for 5,000 visitors to pour into the village to check out the Matakana Village Farmer's Market, the boutique shops and cinemas, and have the choice of plenty of cafes and restaurants . Looking at the 'new' however, will have to wait until next time..........