King Country’s posh pioneers

Kirikau’s Robert Carter has been helping his friends set up their ‘glamping’ place on the Whanganui River.

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Posh Pioneers consists of six luxury pioneer huts, next to the Whanganui River.

HARD WORK AND DETERMINATION always get my vote and support and so over the last three or four years I have been helping my friends Fritz and Heather Bonk establish their extraordinary place to stay on the Whanganui River.

Fritz is a New Zealander of Dutch descent and his surname, Bonk; whilst creating mirth at times, is the Dutch word describing a fence made of whale bones, a legacy of invention and economy on the coast of Holland.

Heather is a Kiwi lass and together she and Fritz have made Maharanui their home, a place on the river not far downstream from Kirikau where I live.

Fritz had a career in Engineering based in various locations around the Bay of Plenty while Heather was a technology teacher at schools in Tauranga.

Fritz is free with his advice and has become a good solid friend. And so has Heather of course!

I put him through the paces to become a commercial jet boat skipper, he did not need much tuition having spent plenty of time in boats over the years.

Heather is the “craftiest” woman I have ever met, there is nothing this girl can’t turn her hand to. She manufactures all sorts of neat things from soap to Rongoa (Maori medicines), woollen articles, quirky artworks, and it is fair to say that she is extremely creative.

At an age when most of us would be looking for a peaceful retired existence they have relocated to the King Country and created “Posh Pioneers”.

Posh Pioneers is what I call a hard shell glamping experience, hard shell because you do not stay in a luxury tent, your accommodation is in one of six ‘olden days’ themed luxury pioneer huts supported by a genuinely nice ablution block and a cunningly designed warm outdoor restaurant.

The backstory of this enterprise is worth relating.

Some time ago Fritz and Heather became aware of a 300-acre reverted farm for sale, located on the banks of the Whanganui River, 65 kilometres downstream from Taumarunui.

There was a friend connection and along with Heather’s love of history and the river itself, serendipity occurred, and they became the proud owners of the block.

Maharanui has no road access although there is a public road available on the other side of the river.

Fritz and Heather set to work, building at first, a lodge, with parts and material flown across the river by helicopter.

This has been and is a true family affair with their four sons Craig, Marcus, Scott, and Erik all weighing in with help (and unsolicited advice to Fritz mainly).

Then back at home in Tauranga Fritz and their prefabricated team of sons got busy and pre-built and finished the huts and ancillary buildings, transporting them with a specially built trailer to a paddock on our farm.

I had to laugh as Fritz hired a 4wd ute for the big towing job even though they own a healthy Toyota Prado. When I asked him about this he said, “Better to wear the ‘beeping’ hire company ute out matey!”

From our place a further transport operation took place to George Te Kere Ngataierua’s block of land at Tawata (A flat piece, rare in these parts), where on a certain day an almost military operation took place.

Kahu Helicopters turned up with their Black Hawk machine and the huts and buildings were airlifted across the river and dropped onto their pre-built foundations and verandahs.

Fritz was a little stressed that day, there’s nothing like $165.00 plus GST a minute to get a Dutchman excited, but due to all his good planning everything literally dropped into place.

And now? 18 months later, they are open for business, entertaining people from all walks of life to a taste of off grid living, jet boating, canoeing, fishing, eeling, crafty things, knife making and forging.

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