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With a home set in paradise, four gorgeous daughters and a menagerie of beautiful animals, why is this northland woman so busy racing around the country?
Words: Polly Greeks / Photographs: Tessa Chrisp
ANDREA THACKWRAY is the sort of woman who grows bored simply soaking up paradise. Put her in a Fijian resort and she’ll end up managing a team of 15 gardeners as she landscapes the grounds. Place her by a Northland beach and she becomes a diving instructor. Ask her to plan an overseas family holiday and she’ll come up with a scheme for a tourism business that may, one day, encompass every country on the planet. Take her on a family trip around New Zealand and she turns her kids into a work team of actresses, film crew and marketing advisors as they take in the sights.
“When she does something, she goes all out. She goes to bed at 11.30pm and is always up at 5.00 or 6.00 the next morning,” daughter Michelle says of her mother. “I never see her in bed. She’s always at the computer. She doesn’t stop.”
Viewing the beautiful Northland bay the Thackwrays call home, it’s amazing that Andrea ever started. Hidden at the end of a dirt road winding between lumpy paddocks and bush-clad hills, the Thackwray’s house is smack-bang in the centre of postcard country. Spreading out from its kitchen heart, the house is as beachy as they come, with wraparound decks and the ocean lapping just metres away. With a custom-built boat in the shed, four ponies to match the four long-haired, long-legged girls, orchard trees swelling with the promise of summer plums, a tree house overlooking the vege garden and the protective arm of Mahinepua Peninsula encircling a bay heaving with kai moana, simply enjoying the place could just about be a full-time endeavour.
Behind the house is a hill, bulldozed into a more respectable form back in the 1980s when building consents weren’t so starchy and prim. Citrus and olive trees march up its steep sides and so too do the girls on their ponies, heading for the panorama of the ocean on top of the four-hectare property. To the right, the Cavalli Islands mass on the horizon like a fleet of stone ships while the view directly below the headland is of pretty scalloped beaches and clear turquoise water. It’s not a bad backyard for a kid, daughters Penny, aged 10, and Holly, 8, agree. Andrea hopes their appreciation lasts. Her dream is for her daughters to build homes of their own one day on the three further house sites staggered up the hill.
Evidence that Andrea is not one to lie idle in this slice of Eden is dotted about the property. Her substantial seaside garden has been grown entirely from clippings. When the walls of the house required art, she learnt to paint landscapes, going on to sell pictures for $2000 a pop, while the ferro-cement statues dotted about the grounds are also her own work. So when this Northland businesswoman describes herself as a sun-seeker who’s been known to drive from Milford to Nelson in one sitting just to catch some blue sky, it’s obvious she has more on her mind than acquiring a tan.
What’s motivating her is a desire to showcase New Zealand’s finest tourist offerings to the world. Pursuing the sun is all about capturing picture-perfect imagery of each region for her online promotional business See and Do New Zealand. “Places have to be seen at their best. That means no clouds when we film.”
The inspiration for Andrea’s See and Do New Zealand website came four years ago when she decided to take the kids on holiday to Europe. “I was trying to find somewhere to go in Italy and started thinking how good it would be to have a map of the country where I could click on places and get short video clips of what it’s like.” Realizing visitors to New Zealand could also benefit from such a service, Andrea busied herself in filling that niche.
So far, she’s driven the length of the country three times, collecting footage for her website which was launched in November 2011. And even though her four daughters have been able to climb mountains, heli-ski, cruise on boats, paraglide, sample spas and swim with dolphins, they aren’t just along for the ride. Younger girls Penny and Holly are solely actresses/models. Click on the See and Do New Zealand website (seeanddonewzealand.co.nz) and there they are, cutely splashing in surf, jumping off yachts or strolling down small-town streets while their sisters Bridget (19) and Michelle (20) can be seen looking suitably gorgeous atop mountains, in forests or reclining in hot pools.
More often than not though, Michelle is behind the camera directing, shooting and, later, editing the scenes. Bridget’s also involved with web design and both girls help their mum market the business.
For the full article please see Issue 47 of NZ Life & Leisure