Newspaper Article 2022 – Bringing people together

Bringing people together

by Amy Fifita

Katie and Ben Absolom own and manage Omatua, situated in Rissington, a place that connects family, friends and groups to spend time with each other.

“I am originally from Hawkes Bay and feel lucky to be living back here, bringing up our children on the farm. We both have family close by, so we have a lot of support around, which is always helpful when raising children,” Katie says.

“I went to Otago University and did my teacher’s training here. I was formerly a teacher, and now Omatua is my full-time job. I loved working with children, but it is great, because a lot of children come through Omatua, and I still get to engage with them.

“The opportunity arose when we purchased the property from the Girl Guides and have been slowly making improvements and have been running it since 2019 – just before Covid. We had to be flexible, and we made it work.

“It is nice hearing other people’s stories. Often when I show people around who haven’t been here for years, they are amazed at the differences and improvements. It helps to keep the history alive when they tell those stories.”

Omatua has many stories itself. The original homestead was built by Captain Anderson in 1861, and it survived both the 1863 and 1931 earthquakes that shook the Hawke’s Bay. Frank and Amy Hutchinson bought the property in 1907, and when Miss Jerome Spencer stayed there with Amy, the idea of the Country Women’s Institute was conceived.

By 1953, Omatua was leased to the Girl Guides at the request of Rosemary Absolom, who was a guide leader. In 1961, Dick and Rosemary Absolom gifted Omatua to the Hawke’s Bay Girl Guides with five acres of land. The original homestead was demolished in 1979 and rebuilt in 1981 before reopening in 1982.

“It is nestled in the valley of Rissington beside the Mangaone River with five acres of gardens and lawns. It is tranquil and peaceful with lots of wildlife and native birdlife – tui, kereru and all sorts.

“Many of the original trees are still standing that were planted there many years ago. It is very rural, and we are lucky to have the river there too.

“The rural setting draws people to the property. It has the feeling of getting away and retreating from the busy, fast-paced life we are living now, and the fact that large groups can stay together is a bonus.

The homestead can accommodate 48 people, and there is additional room for tents and motorhomes. Katie says most guests self-cater, but catering can be arranged.

“I would love to continue to see guests enjoying the place and to experience our little part of paradise.

“Families and friends come here to stay together, cook together and enjoy each other’s company and really feel connected. We do a lot of celebrations, weddings, get-togethers and schools come through too.”

Photo captions –

Omatua is a place that brings people together to connect with one another

The original homestead before it was demolished and rebuilt in 1981 of gardens and lawns. It is tranquil and peaceful with lots of wildlife and native birdlife – tui, kereru and all sorts.

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Newspaper article

Date published

July 2022


Hawke's Bay Farming Lifestyles


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today


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