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NZ Where the holiday never ends

Property Here - Saturday, March 30, 2013

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Peter Cribbens is not the type to scour property pages or pop into open homes. So when he told his wife Rosemary he'd seen a house he liked, she knew it was serious.

The Aucklanders had been holidaying for years in a campground at Pauanui, on the Coromandel. They loved the peaceful spot, with the estuary on one side and the ocean beach on the other, and the safe and laid-back atmosphere.

Peter had got into the habit of strolling along the waterfront, and had long admired a large 1970s home on a flat section a few houses down from the campground, facing north and with glorious views across the estuary to Tairua. "You couldn't find a better spot than that," he says.

One day, about seven years ago, he noticed a for-sale sign outside. When he returned to the campground and mentioned to Rosemary that he was interested in being shown through the house, her response was, "Do we really need to?"

The house was in original condition, so they knew it'd need a bit of updating, but its major selling points were obvious.

With almost every room across its three levels opening up to the north, and only decks, a lawn and a public reserve separating it from the water, it would hardly matter if the bathrooms were a bit tired.

With nine adult children between them and (at last count) 24 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, the space was alluring. The house had four bedrooms, three lounges, three bathrooms, a study and an extra kitchenette.

"It had so many nooks and crannies," says Rosemary. "You could actually lose a grandchild in a game of hide and seek."

So they bought it and used it as a holiday home for several years, with the younger generations coming and going to take advantage of the beaches, fishing, community tennis courts, and golf and mini-golf courses. They can even kayak across to Tairua for breakfast.

"It's really New Zealand of the 1950s," says Rosemary. "It's a child's idea of heaven."

Peter and Rosemary ended up enjoying their time there so much that one Christmas they literally didn't leave.

That summer they rented out their Auckland home to one of their children, and made the holiday permanent.

After an extensive renovation, the house today is almost unrecognisable from its original clinker-brick form. Almost every part of it is new - the joinery, the kitchens, the bathrooms, the floor coverings, the lighting, the electrics ...

Now it's a light and modern house designed to drink in the views without detracting from them - while remaining resolutely unprecious. "We didn't finish it to a standard where people feel like they have to take their shoes off," says Rosemary.

One of the downstairs rooms has a tiled floor so visiting children can run straight in after a swim outside and jump in the bathroom to hose off.

With the next stage of retirement beckoning, Peter and Rosemary are hearing the call of the city again.

They've decided to flip life back around - they'll live permanently in Auckland again, while keeping a small holiday home in Pauanui.

"You can't help but feel uplifted down here, being so close to nature and peace," says Peter.

"We've had a wonderful time here," says Rosemary.

"It's a place that's very hard to leave but I've always believed in moving on while you're still happy and still enjoying things."