Pauanui attracts aviators
Pauanui is a unique settlement on the east coast of the Coromandel Peninsula, south of Whitianga, which caters for aviators and boating people alike. The permanent population of around 800 swells to about 12,000 during the busy summer period over Christmas and New Year.
In 1967 the Hopper brothers, who already held 256 acres of land at Pauanui, began to work with town planner Frank Esdale. Over the next two years they built the first stage of Pauanui with a focus on achieving a friendly family development.
Originally there were no roads and access was mainly by boat until the Hoppers carved their way through the pine plantation to create an airstrip.
The completed aerodrome effectively cuts the township of Pauanui in half, between the sea and the inner estuary of the Tairua River. Within a very short walk, visiting flyers have access to the shopping centre, golf course, the sea and other facilities.
The airstrip has houses, some with hangars beneath, on both sides of the runway. This arrangement, although often seen in the USA, is still uncommon in New Zealand. At Whitianga, about 14nm north of Pauanui, a few sections for houses alongside the runway have been sold, but there the airfield is some distance from the town.
Full width of the single grass runway 05/23, 775m by 60m, is available for takeoffs and landings, and the approaches are over water and unobstructed. Turbulence and windshear can be experienced in winds from the south, southeast and northwest.
Landing fees are payable via the honesty box — $10 per landing for private and $20 for commercial aircraft. No fuel is available on the aerodrome, and the nearest supply is at Whitianga.
I visited Pauanui Beach aerodrome on a fine winter Sunday. I was surprised to see a queue of four light aircraft waiting to take off while another was on final approach to land. During the summer weekends the airfield is very busy, even to the extent of weekend air displays.
Although the aerodrome has few permanent residents, most of the owners of the adjacent houses are either deeply interested in aviation or airline pilots. One permanent house owner, an Air New Zealand pilot, flies from Pauanui to Ardmore when reporting for duty.
Eight houses with hangars built beneath are situated on both sides of the runway, and additional hangars are planned. These buildings fetch a high price on the market, usually well over the $1m mark.
Aucklanders Rex and Jill Johnstone were, until recently, the owners of a North Shore-based Socata Tampico. They became interested in the situation at Pauanui and bought an airfield section, designed and had built a house with a spacious hangar beneath, then flew in four years ago to take possession.
“For an aviator it’s marvellous,” says Rex. “It’s just the most interesting place you can possibly have because there is always something going on at Pauanui — aircraft coming and going, a great climate and a great little community.”
The Johnstones have been flying their Tampico for the past 16 years, frequently on two- or three-week holidays in the South Island, plus the usual flights to keep one’s hand in. But by far the most interesting was taking part in the 2004 Round New Zealand Air Race, landing at 17 or more different airfields.
They have also landed at Queenstown, in good weather. Having booked in first and followed the procedures, they found it no problem at all. Rex is the pilot and his wife Jill the navigator.
But recently they found a need to sell the Tampico and bought a caravan instead. “Owning and servicing your own aircraft can be a rather expensive business,” says Rex, “but I still have my licence and a friend on the aerodrome lets me fly his microlight when I feel the need.”
Standing together in the hangar, empty apart from the caravan, they admit, “We feel rather lonely now.”
- Report and photographs by Max Pudney
» Summer success at the Walsh
» The luxury of living in the Ivory Tower
» Comper moves swiftly
» UAV usefulness increasing
» Woodville’s even dozen
» 60th birthday party for ZK-BNL
» New airline MRO facility
» Hands across the Southern Alps
» Praise earned in tough place