Artisan goodies in Wairoa

One of the things that impresses me as I poke around the smaller corners of New Zealand is the inventiveness that takes place in people’s backyards.

This is particularly so in country areas, where away from the madding crowds, resourcefulness is often better able to flourish. I flush out these enterprises whenever I can. 

In Wairoa, a town not commonly linked to artisan skills, my curiosity was aroused by a brand called Made in Wairoa, which I first saw at the town’s Saturday farmers market.

This led me to the woman who had instigated the market and invented the logo. Sue Wilson lives on a farm in the hills behind the hamlet of Frasertown at the start of the road to Lake Waikaremoana.

Harvesting at Lake Road Lavender Farm

Among all the chores that make up life on the land, she also found time to develop a food company called the The Wooden Spoon and releases onto the market many ground-breaking products such as feijoa pâté, glacé orange rolls, jelly created from rose petals and lip-smacking pickled walnuts made from her great-grandmother’s recipe.

And then, I found a butcher, a baker, and a candlestick maker. It doesn’t feel quite right to call Rodney Alexander a butcher. He and his partner, Joyce Lloyd, from Manurau game birds at Nuhaka, raise the likes of quails, geese, silky bantams and Guinea fowl for the table.

But first they give the birds a happy life and tend them with loving care. I didn’t ask how these feathered friends get the final chop. Some things are better left unsaid.

The baker is dog lover Diedre Jones, who had many tails wagging when she began manufacturing canine delicacies called Lady Penelope’s Doggy Delights. Popular are coconut milk, peanut butter and apple, and spiced carrot.

Lady Penelope with the Doggy Delights made by her owner

Lady Penelope is her Shih Tzu Japanese Chin cross-breed. The candlestick makers in Wairoa have turned their waxy creations into an innovative art form. Darren Rudd had 20 years’ experience before he and his wife Tamara moved to Wairoa for a change of lifestyle.

He took his Notre Vie company with them. These beautiful candles are perfumed with delicate blends of fragrance. I loved Cuban Havana, which released the rich aroma of musk, patchouli, tobacco, cinnamon, clove and citrus.

There is more fragrance along the road to Waikaremoana, where four hectares at the Lake Road Lavender Farm were gloriously awash with purple blooms. Twenty years ago Fran Proffit began experimenting on her family’s small lifestyle block, and now 2000 perfumed bushes provide oil for a commercial range of balms, soaps and creams.

Further towards the lake on a remote cattle station I met Margot Dever, who has gone commercial with the chocolate treats she’d spent years making for country gatherings.

Every year Margot’s Handcrafted Chocolates turns out thousands of deliciously flavoured chocolate truffles. After my visit, she was one dozen down. Back in Frasertown, my sweet tooth was given further rein in a tiny, brightly coloured shop painted with bees.

Te Kapu Apiaries produce four varieties of honey – manuka, rewarewa, clover and tawari. Like many rural projects, this buzzy business has long been a family affair.

Peter Pegram and his wife Kathleen started it back in 1950, using an old school building as their first honey house. Today their son Keith, and family continue this hive of industry in a purpose-built honey house, where the nectar from 3800 hives is processed.

Fruit sorting at The Limery

On a more sour note, I spoke to Paul Hyslop and Dianne Downy, who grow 4000 lime trees on their four-hectare lifestyle block near the mouth of the Wairoa River and last year started up their own juicing plant.

The couple are escapees from Auckland who were searching for a different lifestyle, with the idea of ‘growing something’. Sue Wilson is the sort of person who can’t help coming up with new ideas.

As an extension of the Made in Wairoa brand she has fashioned eye-catching gift boxes using some of the town’s bounty. They are hitting the sweet spot with corporates, promoters and individuals.

I left Wairoa armed with manuka honey, pickled walnuts, a bottle of lime juice, and candle called Vanilla Bourbon. Small New Zealand towns can throw up some irresistible bounty.

Win a beautiful Made in Wairoa gift box (Valued at $150)


A beautiful Made in Wairoa gift box full of delicious goodies and valued at $150.

Enter here before 28 June to be in to win!

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