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Episode 20: Among the Rocks

Felix and Rita Schaad. Photo by Carol Archie.

Goats on a rock on the farm of Felix and Rita Schaad. Photo by Carol Archie.

On the next episode, screening 26 June at 7pm on TV ONE:

Among the Rocks

When Rita and Felix Schaad bought their 'wilderness' in Hokianga 27 years ago, they admired the yellow flowers that bloomed there.

But the couple were soon dedicated to ridding the farm of those very plants - gorse, broom, ragwort and other weeds that covered most of the land.

The Schaads, new immigrants from Switzerland, fell in love with the run-down 144 hectare block in steep country near Horeke in Northland. 

They tried unsuccessfully to make a living through farming ventures such as raising cashmere goats and cattle. But their primary focus is now a tourist venture known as Wairere Boulders Nature Park.

Large basalt boulders are scattered throughout the farm and piled up in a valley of flowing rocks. This geological wonder was not obvious to them at first because it was so overgrown with weeds.

They fenced off half the land to protect the native bush. Then, with the help of goats, lots of hard labour and an old bulldozer, the couple cleared the rest and dreamed about sharing their boulder-strewn landscape with others.

Felix, a civil engineer back in Switzerland, used his skills to design and build 23 bridges, stairs and a platform along the valley bushwalk.

Rita helped with the structures and is still busy most days trimming back unwanted growth along the paths. Felix hand-weeds around the boulders and manages a meticulous trapping programme to save the bush and its bird life from rats, stoats and possums.

The boulders, which are up to 30 metres in height, are the only examples of 'fluted' basalt in the world. Geologists believe the deep cuts, up to 300 mm wide and a metre deep, may have been eaten into the volcanic rock by rain washing tannic acids from ancient kauri forests.

The Schaads also raise cattle and are strong advocates for the role that goats play in keeping their pasture in good condition. Their days are punctuated by hard work and the pleasure of meeting new people who share their 'wilderness'.

Related links
Wairere Boulders
- Hokianga
- Hokianga Tourism Association
- To e-mail the Schaads,