Sir Bob Harvey, a six-term mayor of Waitākere City and formerly Auckland’s champion for overseas investment, takes us on a tour of his favourite west coast nature spots.
Opal Pool Stream
The pools are to the right of the great waterfall at Karekare. Cross the bridge, go up to the waterfall and just at the bottom, turn right and you’re there. Take your togs, or don’t! I first fell in love with the pools in 1956, when I joined the surf club. I was 16. Back in those days, we would always go to the pools because we had no water at the surf club, and we’d take a pack of soap and wash ourselves! Now, soap is forbidden, to protect the pools.
There used to be 10 pools, but in the 1960s Lone Kauri Road was put in and the blasting and bulldozers destroyed five of them. But the remaining ones are some of the most glorious, beautiful deep pools in the Waitākere Ranges.
All my life I’ve spent around the west coast, but this would be my favourite location – I’m still a lifeguard there. At 78, I’m still up the tower, with my son, who is 46, and his son, who is 11. We have a house in Karekare and my 12 grandkids are there all the time. I used to be the president of the surf life-saving club, and I’ve held pretty much every role at Karekare.
I love that the beach was the setting for the film The Piano, which won three Oscars, and the recent movie The Heart Dances – The Journey of The Piano: the Ballet. It was great when the locals put a piano on the beach for people to play and celebrate the film.
At Muriwai, you have to experience the gannet colony. They usually return in November, but came early this year. I think they are fascinating birds, devoted and clever. I was up there three weeks ago; I never miss a summer or a spring without visiting the gannet colony.
I call it the beach of a thousand shipwrecks – the west coast is full of them, including one at Muriwai, the Daring, which was discovered last year and gently lifted out of the sands. It now sits in Hobsonville.
Whatipu Scientific Reserve
You can’t live in Auckland without going to Whatipu, near the mouth of the Manukau Harbour, and enjoying the sheer isolation and mysteriousness of it. I think it’s a ghostly, eerie experience; it has a feeling of ‘the other’.
One of the true joys of Whatipu is the Great Cave, where they used to hold dances in the early 20th century. I’ve been going there for 60 years and it doesn’t cease to amaze me – these places are my lifetime treasures.
The path to the falls has had a significant upgrade to stop the spread of kauri dieback disease, so now the walk is an absolute gem. What I love about some of these locations on the coast is that they haven’t changed in the 60 years I’ve been going to them; when you’re there, you’re in the presence of nature as it was a thousand years ago.
These are the pleasures of the west coast. It blows the wind through you; it freshens your brain, your body, your spirit. If the west coast loves you, you can do no wrong.