Summery cottage on Waiheke Island

Following their hearts, and the hippies, to Waiheke Island has been a smart move for these homeowners

Words Sue Hoffart  Photos Tessa Chrisp  Issue   Related topics , ,

Bruno the cat doesn’t bother to glance at the boats merrily bobbing in Oneroa Bay, below his Waiheke Island verandah. The indulged Burmese has no interest in the outlook that his human owners, Kate and Barry (Baz) Hastings, took such trouble to capture from their cliff-top home. At this moment, Bruno is focused on the giant clamshell that once belonged to Kate’s grandparents and which now serves as his personal drinking vessel. He laps at the water before returning inside to lie down.

Life is so grand for a feline chez Hastings that Baz claims he wants to be reincarnated as his own pet. The cat’s greatest daily dilemma involves deciding whether to sprawl on a window seat or a cane chair, an armchair, deckchair, stool, bed, day bed or sofa. Visiting human layabouts favour the home’s sweeping seaside views but Kate’s eye for landscaping and interiors ensures that every lounging option faces something picturesque.

Inside the house, plenty of items demand a second glance – the painted oar, the exotic lamp, the wall cavity created specifically to hold binoculars. Rustic furniture is wedged between lovely linen and art from earlier generations. Outside, the paved courtyard is bordered by yet more seating and a fireplace smothered in Virginia creeper. Unfussy and welcoming as the overall effect may be, everything has been thoughtfully positioned by a woman who knows what she’s doing.

Most of Kate’s working life has been spent in garden centres – she managed two in Remuera – and she has always created her own gardens, as well as developing an 800-tree olive grove on their previous Waiheke property. Latterly, her talents have found an outlet in Veranda, the lifestyle and giftware store in Oneroa she co-owns with a friend.

Baz, who commutes to his business development role in Auckland, takes no credit for transforming the original rectangular 1930s cottage into their current home. It certainly wasn’t his idea to buy it. He was intent on remaining indefinitely in the larger, fully completed Waiheke home with its olive grove. “I said, ‘You must be crazy. I plan to end my days in this house,’” says Baz of Kate’s suggestion that they leave their last abode. “This place we bought was a funny, little, tiny, poky bach.”

But there was no stopping Kate, who had long admired the blue and white-painted cottage in Oneroa township, with its tin garage and beach towels hanging over the fence in summer. Before he knew it, Baz was off the olive grove and living in a rented home with Kate while she managed the renovations. The building was gutted, jacked up, ceilings raised and a guest area created downstairs. The roof was replaced, a fearsomely efficient log-burner installed and an office built above the garage.

Kate was determined to maintain the character of the original abode, but not its impracticalities. So, windows and doors were reused and new ones fitted with deliberately mismatched latches, gathered from Christchurch’s iconic demolition yard The Pump House. In the absence of any outdoor living space – previous owners used to climb out a window to barbecue food atop the water tank – the Hastings created the courtyard and verandah.

Baz now admits his wife was quite right to extract him from a larger, labour-intensive property to a smaller place “in town”. The current home feels pleasingly nautical. “She has done amazing things with it,” he says, staring out to sea from the verandah, content as a cat. “It’s so sheltered; there are beautiful tuis singing. I came home early from work today and slogged away for, oh, about 11 and a half minutes, mowing the lawns.”

Their first visit to Waiheke, two decades ago, was Kate’s idea too. They were living in Orakei when she organised a surprise weekend escape there, sleeping beneath candlewick bedspreads at the old Onetangi Hotel.

Island life felt so appealing, they decided to rent a bach over summer and commute to work in the city. When it turned out that the cost of a summer rental was close to the cost of servicing a loan, they took the plunge and borrowed $80,000 to buy a small place in the bush near Oneroa. In those days, Kate says, the island was “popular with hippies and fibrolite baches were the norm, which I thought was a positive”.

Several summers and many weekend visits later, Baz and Kate bought a 4ha block of land behind Onetangi beach and began drawing up house plans. By 1998, they were permanent island residents, with a large garden and the beginnings of an olive grove.

Says Kate: “Friends thought it was a big undertaking and, upon seeing the dense, gorse-covered block, those with a rural background thought we were barking mad. My father, a retired South Island stock agent, once rang and said, ‘I’ve found out how to get rid of gorse – sell it.’”

The Hastings were warned several times against investing in any property on the island. They’re glad they ignored the naysayers and Kate says their move from the mainland has proved financially savvy. “Go with your heart. It is often said that it is a smart move to follow the hippies. They are often the first to recognise special locations. Then people like us move in after them and ruin it. Sort of. Not really.”

Their life is also richer and more interesting, she says, than it would be if they had remained in a city suburb. “For me, that’s probably what makes it – the diversity, people from all walks of life, the open-minded attitudes and a mix of immigrants from every corner of the globe. And the natural beauty is outstanding: beautiful headlands, rocky outcrops. I love the fact that all the activists back in the day managed to protect a lot of coastal areas for walking tracks. Thank God for old hippies and old lefties.”

Q&A

We weren’t happy when: Rigorous council regulations demanded construction of a retaining wall and new waste water system. We moaned about the expense but that work probably saved the property. Two neighbours’ properties and a walking track slumped during a recent big storm. (Kate)

We had plenty of help from: Architectural designer and fellow islander Paul McIntosh. He had a lot of great ideas for the house and he’s very good at making small spaces work. (Baz)

It’s quite exciting when: A storm blows in. You’re pretty involved in what nature’s doing here. (Kate)

Our best edible crops are: Passionfruit, tamarillo, bananas, tomatoes and beans that grow in our north-east-facing garden, which is a fabulous suntrap. (Kate)

My top tip for commuting by ferry: I had an office in the Ports of Auckland building on the wharf. I could see the ferry queue from my desk and, once it started to move, I knew it was time to make a dash for it. (Baz)

I’m always finding: Treasures in weird places, thinking, omigawd, how am I going to get that home. I drive Baz mad. He has a rule when we travel: you buy it, you carry it! (Kate)

Kate and Baz Hastings

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