Founder passes baton to enthusiastic new owners

Under new management: Brendan and Kim Coghlan with retiring owner John Baker.

The new owners of the Matakana Country Park, Brendan and Kim Coghlan, are taking their time to “get the feel of the place”, but are excited about the opportunities that the park presents.

They paid tribute to founder John Baker’s original vision for the iconic property and are keen to enhance the park rather than make any major changes. In the longer term, their vision includes an art precinct with artists-in-residence and a cheese factory.

Brendan has lived in Orewa since 1973, and has an architectural design, building and property development background. He will be overseeing the development of new accommodation options.

Kim, who is originally from Taupo, will be involved in the day-to-day running of the park. She has been a rider for most of her life and her two horses compete in national dressage competitions. She has two children – Danielle and Ashton Peck. Eleven-year-old Danielle is also a keen equestrian and took out the NZ Pony of the Year title on Tui’s Keepsake last year.

“We’ll expand the equestrian opportunities at the park gradually, and would like to again hold Grand

Prix show jumping events here,” Kim says. “We’ve got world class show jumping facilities and want to take advantage of that, catering for beginners through to professionals.”

The park offers a full livery service and grazing, and Brendan and Kim have already built four new stables with more on the drawing board. They have resource consent for a purpose-built vet clinic for equine and small animals, and are currently looking for a vet to get this project underway.

They say that keeping the animal-friendly feel of the park is important.

“We already have Patrick and Christine Monaghan doing a fantastic job with the pony and carriage rides, and we plan to expand the range of animals in the petting zoo so that it can be more interactive.”

The current playground, on the Leigh Road side of the park, will be relocated to a site near the miniature train and a BMX track aimed at younger riders will built near the Omaha Flats Road entrance.

The masterplan includes a daycare centre on the playground site, which will back on to the petting zoo.

“We’d like to see it built this summer, but we’re still in the process of looking for an operator,” Brendan says. “We envisage it will cater for up to 40 children.”

A motorhome/caravan park with powered sites for up to 20 vehicles is expected to be up and running by September. Entry will be off Takatu Road and the site will be progressively developed with hedging for privacy and pathways to park facilities.

“We get a lot of enquiries from van owners, so I think this will be a welcome addition to the area,” Kim says.

In the longer term, permanent one and two-bedroomed, self-contained cabin accommodation will be built on the northern end of the site, alongside the confidence course. This will cater for school camps during the week and visitors on weekends. If all goes to plan, the first 12 cabins will be on site by Christmas, with a further 12 cabins planned in total.

“One of the things people have told us is that there is a lack of affordable family accommodation in the area, so we think the cabins will be popular.”

A lot at the northern end of the site has been sold to an Auckland developer who plans to build a luxury lodge and conference facility.

John Baker bows out

Guests at a function to mark the retirement of Matakana Country Park founder John Baker paid tribute to his vision, hard work and generosity.

The event was held at The Stables Restaurant on Sunday, June 30.

The park, on Leigh Road, is now under the management of Brendan and Kim Coghlan.

Mr Baker bought the property in 2002 and has, over the past 17 years, developed it into a family-friendly destination, as well as being one of the district’s busiest wedding and events venues.

The 18ha site encompasses an eclectic mix of activities including retail shops, a café and restaurant, equestrian facilities, a confidence course and a church.

Former Matakana Community Group chair Neville Johnson said Mr Baker had always been supportive of the community and made particular mention of the Fruitloop event, which was based at the park and helped fund the walkway/cycleway bridge in Matakana.

As chair of the Mahurangi Presbyterian Church Board of Managers, which oversees St Andrews Church in the grounds of the park, Mr Johnson said that again, Mr Baker had been generous in donating the land for the church, plus, selling a further quarter-acre for $100,000.

“When you think of what land is worth in Matakana, you can appreciate the magnitude of the donation,” Mr Johnson said.

Mr Baker, who has bought a home nearby, said he was inspired to build the country park after visiting the Butchart Gardens on Vancouver Island.

He says his retirement will give him time to pursue his interest in sculpture and ceramic art.


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