Couple give holiday park new lease of life

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Brent and Kirsty Cowles have been holidaying in Otematata for many years and couldn’t bare to see the Holiday Park and Lodge closed last year.

After asking a couple of questions on a holiday over Labour Weekend, they wrote a proposal on the iPad on the way home and two weeks later were negotiating a lease.

They took over in December 2012 and have made some big changes to the Park in the last eight months.

Renovations have included painting and carpeting rooms, resealed the pool edges with the help of a very generous camper, Dave Thode from G & T Concrete, who did the entire job for free. They have replaced more than half of the mattresses and beds with the other half in the pipeline, taken over 20 caged trailer loads of clippings and rubbish etc out of the camp area, put new ovens in the kitchens, fully restocked the shop and built a mini movie theatre for the kids.

As well as changing the Park to fit their vision, they have loved the interaction with the people, seeing such a variety of locals and tourists alike pass through.

“The other thing is the lifestyle – we live in a stunning piece of the world,” he said.

For Mr and Mrs Cowles, Otematata is a place where you can do as much or as little as you like – you can totally relax and unwind in a relaxed atmosphere or you can take advantage of the lakes, rivers and back country and enjoy the outdoors.

“It’s very family orientated and so many people have been coming here for generations,” he said.

“The locals are kind spirited and very generous and I have never lived in a community more passionate about their place in the world.”

He cited a fundraiser for the First Response Unit and Kurow School at the Otematata Lakes Hotel a few week ago as an example of the community spirit.

“[We] raised over $3000. Not bad for a community with only about 170 full time residents,” he said.

“We now have businesses all working together to help make Otematata even better than it is now – it’s a great buzz..”

For now, they’re looking forward to summer in Otematata, already with lots of Christmas holiday and group bookings.

“Long hot nights, seeing people relax and enjoy their holidays knowing that we helped make it memorable in some way – and of course the buzz of a busy town,” he said.

They are employing some casual staff over the busy time, after being a little caught out last year by the support they received.

“We hope within the next two to three years that we can create between three and five extra jobs in the region,” they said.

Future plans for the park include re-roading, establishing an information centre, painting, retiling, installing new heating for the pool and establishing fishing and sightseeing charters on the lake.

“[We are] in the process of obtaining funding to put an information centre in as the town needs a central point where we can get the opportunity to promote ourselves and welcome visitors to our town,” he said.

“The last idea is for a paintball operation to be installed. This is something that will appeal to young and old alike and is great for attracting groups to the region for team building exercises.”

They predict that the Alps 2 Ocean cycle trail is going to change the landscape of Otematata.

“At the end of last season we had many cyclists stopping in after a day on the trail plus some school groups through and all agree that it is going to be a world class trail,” he said.

“The opportunities for economic development in Otematata have never been better.”

They have had massive online support, attracting more than 2085 people following their progress on Facebook.

“The support from all over is very humbling. The number of people who have given us furniture, paint, time and support has totally blown us away – their passion fuels ours,” he said.

As well as getting the Park back up and running, Mr Cowles is also a committee member of both the Otematata Residents Association (ORAI) and the Otematata District Club.

ORAI are working on a variety of projects in Otematata, such as a playground with a flying fox and skate park and the Wetlands Walkway.

Coming from a radio background, Mr Cowles is passionate for radio and music and has has set up a LPFM (low powered FM) radio station servicing the immediate area

87.9 Choice FM has community notices, sponsored hours and a variety of hourly music features.

By Rebecca Ryan