Brian Edwards Media

From Omaha to Hotel California

View from the bach at Leigh

View from the bach at Leigh

About 6 months ago we bought ourselves a bach in Leigh. It’s not terribly posh. You could easily mistake it for a Lockwood, but it’s half way up a cliff and all you can see from the deck is the sea and the horizon and, jutting out, the distant peninsula that is home to the Tauwharanui Regional Park and, on a clear day, Great Barrier Island. And all you can hear are the waves breaking on the rocks at the bottom of the cliff.

To get from Auckland to Leigh, you head for the Warkworth turn-off to Matakana, then on to Leigh bypassing the turn-0ff to Omaha.

I remembered that John Key has a holiday home at Omaha where he barbecued chops and sausages for John Campbell.

I’m a nosy bugger and about a month ago could no longer resist the temptation to check out the resort which our Prime Minister had chosen as his Kiwi  – as distinct from Hawaiian – holiday destination.

I gather there’s a fashionable and unfashionable part of Omaha. Homes in the “unfashionable” part have apparently just hit the $3 million mark, so the price of a “bach” in “fashionable” Omaha must be astronomical.

To satisfy my curiosity about Omaha Judy and I made  a detour on our way from Matakana to Leigh.

There are a lot of posh and a lot of not-so-posh-looking houses. The land in front of the houses is flat, so the only elevation above sea level, and therefore the only view of the sea, is from any storey above ground level. The streets in front of the houses form a grid of roughly parallel lines.   We drove down Street One for as far as we could go, then did a U-turn round the median strip into Street Two which ran parallel and brought us back to our starting point.

It was a deeply depressing excursion.

I’m sitting on the couch in our “Lockwood” now, looking across the sea to the horizon, interrupted on one side by Great and Little Barrier and on the other by the Tauwharanui Peninsula. Occasionally you can see the Coromandel. But you can always hear the waves breaking on the rocks.

I’m listening to my all time favourite LP, The Eagles’ Hotel California – The Last Resort:

“Some rich men came and raped the land,
Nobody caught ‘em
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes, and Jesus,
people bought ‘em
And they called it paradise
The place to be
They watched the hazy sun, sinking in the sea

“And you can see them there,
On Sunday morning
They stand up and sing about
what it’s like up there
They call it paradise
I don’t know why
You call someplace paradise,
kiss it goodbye”

Love that song!



  1. If I may use a sporting analogy Brian, the view you have is much better than the view from down low on the beachfront but it is a bit like sitting high up at Eden Park watching a game whereas the houses down low on the beach are more like the players on the field. One is a participant and the other is a viewer. Hard to compare the experience of each place as the feel is completely different though both excellent in their own way. Personally I prefer the field to the bleachers.

    • Can’t work out your analogy. The only game those on the flat will be part of is who gets swamped first as rising water levels will mean the present coastline at Omaha becomes further inland at the western boundary of the present estuary.

    • 1.2

      I knew Sideshow Bob and I know that he is now more correctly Sideshow SIR Bob.

  2. +1 for the view
    +1 for the post

    -10 for the Eagles.

    (½ j/k.- I think I own that record myself).

    • Most of us have had a guts full of OTT John Campbell and the anodyne, @#*^ing flogged to death Eagles.

      • 2.1.1

        About that:

        They asked T-Bone Burnett (who would later work with the Coens on O Brother, Where Art Thou? and Inside Llewyn Davis) to pick songs for the soundtrack of the film. [..] However, he had a tough time securing the rights to Townes Van Zandt’s cover of the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers”, which plays over the film’s closing credits. Former Stones manager Allen Klein owned the rights to the song and wanted $150,000 for it. Burnett convinced Klein to watch an early cut of the film and remembers, “It got to the part where the Dude says, ‘I hate the fuckin’ Eagles, man!’ Klein stands up and says, ‘That’s it, you can have the song!’

      • To you and others: Once you believe there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ taste in music you’ve stopped thinking and lost the plot. You’ve become a bigot.

        • There’s a bit of the bigot in all of us Brian, especially in members of the opinionated chattering classes who leave a record exposing many contradictions and hypocrisies.

          “I think this is a healthy development. Uncle Fred may well have loved Barry Manilow singing I don’t want to walk without you, but he (Uncle Fred not Barry Manilow) is dead now and unlikely to be upset by the living rejecting his “APPALLING TASTE” in music in favour of something less offensive to their ears.”

        • So you don’t think liking Barry Manilow shows “appalling taste” in music anymore. lol.


          Looks like you dug your own hole there Brian.


          Once you believe there is ‘good’ and ‘bad’ taste in music you’ve stopped thinking and lost the plot.

          Pretty obvious that the opposite is the case. Debate about the merits of artworks is one of the best means of finding new and interesting stuff. It also tends to result in leaving some things behind. Trying to place your own tastes beyond criticism is about the worst thing you could do to yourself.

          And I checked. I do own that album, although I haven’t listened to the whole thing in years.

        • I’d make the same observation about house sites.

  3. One of the Eagles’ best songs.

    You don’t say why the drive to Omaha was deeply depressing; I assume because you saw some extravagant houses far out of reach for most kiwis. This seems to me pointless – you have a house which you enjoy and seem mostly satisfied with, so better to call that place your paradise and make the most of it. It would be just as out of reach to a large number of Kiwis, but you saved and purchased it and it is a luxury for you.

    A friend from Finland, my wife’s home country, quoted a great and typically phlegmatic Finnish saying to me once: “Haluaa mitä saa”, meaning “want what you get”. The real sin of luxury “baches” are the ones that spend most of the year seemingly unoccupied and unappreciated, bought as a symbol of wealth rather than to create a family bolthole and generations of memories.

    • Those “family boltholes” remained empty for most of the year as well. I suspect what BE found depressing on his drive out to Omaha is how tacky the likes of John Key perceive “paradise”.

      • Really, is this what the left has been consigned to – complaining about John Key living in the tacky house.
        Get a life.

  4. I cannot disagree more about Omaha. Yes, there are some flash houses, many are very ordinary. The beach is truly lovely, you can fish, swim and have a brisk walk for a couple of kms and enjoy exploring the bird sanctuary on the northern end. There’s an excellent harbour for canoeing, kayaking and launching a tinnie for some snapper and there’s a half decent links course for the keen or casual golfer. There are quite a few tennis courts locals can play on for a small sub and it’s the nearest non suburban surf beach to Auckland.
    Driving down a couple of streets and not taking the time to savour the abundant natural amenities does it a disservice and hopefully you’ll make the time to visit it again and reflect that the weekenders and locals are playing the Eagles there too.

    • This is what a rational response should look like, Jess. Thanks. You’ve persuaded me to go and take another look. I will, however, be wearing a false beard.

  5. Its empty Jess! Socially isolated nuclear family ‘boxes?’ where you are expected to above all ‘keep to yourself’.
    Look, but don’t touch’.
    Don’t understand the attraction at all.

  6. There’s a compelling Joan Didion essay from “The White Album” on the banality of the architecture that rich Republicans built as an official residence for the Governor of California, and constructed to the taste and requirements of the then governor, Ronald Reagan. (Jerry Brown subsequently refused to live in it.)

    She writes: “It is the kind of house that has a wet bar in the living room. It is the kind of house that has a refreshment center. It is the kind of house in which one does not live, but there is no way to say this without getting into touchy and evanescent and finally inadmissible questions of taste, and ultimately of class.”

    In commending this thoughtful essay to you, I wonder how long it will be till the good burghers of Omaha find convincing reasons to gate their community.

  7. A union friend of mine,years ago, used to say “white man speak with forked tongue,steal all the buffalo!” Seems somehow vaguely relevant to this….

  8. Brian, if you were younger, had a few children aged from 6 to 14 or so you may find Omaha is a delightful place for the family to enjoy, swimming, tennis, cricket and generally having a fun time relaxing. Alas, like me, you have aged and settled into the view from the hill. Sad really.

  9. I have always been infuriated by the blithe assumption that in the good old days ‘everyone’ had a small family bach at the beach to which the family went on long weekends and over Christmas to have great holidays which are the stuff of nostalgic memories of childhoods in which the sun was always shining and days of swimming and surfing were endless. The fact is that such ownership was confined to the upper sections of the middle class. We of the working class could never have aspired to this sort of ownership (and actually I still don’t – I have never seen the point of summer holidays at the beach).

    But what has happened as the gap between rich and poor has widened in New Zealand in the last three decades is that the declining middle class has mostly lost their precious beach resorts to the vulgar nouveau riche who have moved into the bays where their baches are and engaged architects from the Great Big Ugly Houses school of domestic architecture to build them summer places a la rich Americans. And now they’re screaming blue murder about it. Well it serves them right for voting for Rogernomics and John Key

    • 9.1

      Ah, but we who couldn’t afford a seaside bach could buy a tent and go camping by said beaches in the summer school holidays. Waikuku, Woodend and Kaikoura were favourite spots for us from Christchurch.

      • 9.1.1

        I know all three locales well and have actually stayed in a tent at Kaikoura as a child. My heart quails at the mere recollection. There are few things less comfortable than living in a tent (otherwise we’d all be doing it instead of just those who can’t afford a roof over their head) especially for the wives of those days who were expected to reproduce suburban New Zealand at the seaside while the males busied themselves with important things like fishing. Anyone who thinks the fifties was a lost paradise either wasn’t there or has a very defective memory

  10. Looks very pleasant and peaceful, BE! (I suspect you could do with a good break, judging by your recent shameful and racist tirade directed at our neighbours across the Tasman.)

  11. I have never owned a bach and consider myself lucky to have a mortgage on a home.It is an indulgence of the wealthy.My main concern is eventually access to the beach will be limited to landowners in the area.Where I live there was a failed attempt to close down an access to a beach road by the landowners ,although they managed to limit “freedom camping” sites the road remains open.What was once a area of enjoyment to all is slowly being overtaken by vested interests.
    By the way, Hotel California is a fine Eagles album but my favourite is Desperado.

  12. And those of us who did not want the albatross of bach ownership got around this by renting one for one or two weeks (of course at exorbitant rates) in high summer. In this way, our family,and many others, built up a store of wonderful summer holiday memories all over the upper North Island.

  13. I don’t have a bach at Omaha….and don’t aspire to.However,I don’t quite get the point of this post? Is it to say Omaha is not to your personal taste,or is it a condescending ” chardonnay Socialist ” way of saying ” I’m more intelligent than you and I don’t give a toss for your wealth and bad taste “?
    Either way Brian….it comes across a a tacky and mean spirited post ! Could do better !

    • I find “Chardonnay Socialist” fairly condescending too, particularly since you know nothing about my lifestyle. My comments had nothing to do with the intelligence, personalities or wealth of the owners of the Omaha properties. They had to do with what I consider to be a particularly badly designed development which has the character of American suburbia. It became apparent to Judy and me as we drove around that the majority of houses’ primary view is of not of the sea or the beach but of other houses. If it is indeed true, as the paper reported on the day before I wrote the piece, that these properties are selling for up to $3 million, then a purchaser ought to be able to have a view of more than the next house. It was primarily that housing concentration and the grid-like layout of the development that made this a deeply depressing visit for us. However, if I were the owner of ones of these properties, I would have been thoroughly pissed off by this post. I accept that. Does that mean I shouldn’t write about it? I’m afraid not. This is a forum for opinion. I express my opinion on a wide variety of topics and readers of my posts have the opportunity to reply, almost invariably without having their reply edited and, most commonly and like you, anonymously. Among those who have objected is the well-known chef Lauraine Jacobs, who did give her name. Lauraine was thoroughly pissed off and gave her reasons along with a spirited defence of Omaha, it’s surroundings, facilities and community. Bravo. She has since invited me for coffee and I have accepted. This is how civilised people deal with disagreement.

      • Actually Omaha isn’t really like “American suburbia” and doesn’t have a grid pattern at all – it is mostly cul de sacs, with parks and interconnecting walkways and cycleways providing safe off-road beach access to rear sections without having to cross roads. A rare example of good planning, not bad.

        Its on a long narrow peninsula so many places have sea views, and the layout of the Southern end in particular was designed to maximise this. Only the large waterfront places go for $3m, so I don’t think your comments are at all accurate. In any event its their money to spend as they wish, and houses within a 100 yard flat walk to a beautiful beach less than an hour from Queen St are never going to be cheap.

        My criticism of the place would be of the building covenants requiring the houses to be similar earth tone colours which gives the place an eerie feel – I prefer the chaotic jumble of colourful ramshackle baches in a typical NZ seaside beach town.

  14. 14

    Chandrasekhar Megawatt

    The houses you speak of — on Street One and Street Two — are visually jarring. Totally out of keeping for a coastal environment; not too unlike the urban blight that is Stonefields, that assails your aesthetic senses as you come down Ngahue Drive, and view a sea of grey featureless rooftops. Oh,wait… but Mike Hoskings shills for Fletchers, on his NewstalkZB slot, gushing as to “what a great place to live”; so we could be wrong on both accounts.

  15. Does taste in housing cover the same principles as taste in music?

  16. If Tolkien’s shire was an allegory to a lost “deep England” then surely the odd, rootless, soulless uniformity of tastelessly ostentatious holiday homes in a natural paradise for property speculators, currency traders and assorted free market parasites that Omaha now is serves a similar allegorical purpose as a commentary on post-1984 New Zealand.

  17. No one tried to say a thing
    When they took him out in jest
    Except, of course, the little neighbor boy
    Who carried him to rest
    And he just walked along, alone
    With his guilt so well concealed
    And muttered underneath his breath
    “Nothing is revealed”
    Well, the moral of the story
    The moral of this song
    Is simply that one should never be
    Where one does not belong
    So when you see your neighbor carryin’ somethin’
    Help him with his load
    And don’t go mistaking Paradise
    For that home across the road

    – Written by Bob Dylan