17 May 2019

Undy 500: Colville, gateway to the northern Coromandel

From Country Life, 9:34 pm on 17 May 2019

Weave up a narrow, winding coastal road that hugs pohutukawa-fringed beaches and you'll find the cluster of about a dozen buildings which make up an isolated town with a heart that beats very strongly.

Welcome to Colville.

Each week, Alexandra Sutherland McQueen rattles over gravel roads from her home on the northern Coromandel Peninsula to volunteer at Colville's tiny post office.

It's open three days a week and years ago was earmarked for closure but saved by outraged locals.

The post office sits next to the Colville General Store, a co-operative run for the benefit of the community.

There's a tennis club that has a barbecue every Friday night, and everyone's welcome whether you play tennis or not.

There's also a  weekly music club in a local woolshed that's been going for 30 years. If you don't know how to play an instrument, don't worry, just come along and someone will teach you.

The town boasts a couple of cafes, art studios, a tiny library and a wee op shop that Alexandra is fond of.

"You can dress beautifully here and it costs you nothing. So if you are on a low income here is where you can feel rich. Honestly, here I feel rich because of nature [and] the people."

The environment can take a toll on a vehicle though. Right now Alexandra's car has rusted and needs replacing because she often has to drive through encroaching tides just to get around.

"However we still love living up here. We have still got a remoteness. And because of the metal roads, it adds to its own beauty. They're country roads.

"And also there's a low population. You can be yourself. There's no image. No keeping up with the Joneses."