Dargaville’s planned ‘Kumara World’ centre

5:50 PM Friday July 5, 2019 Colin Taylor

The buildings at 39 Maxwell Rd, Dargaville, have been constructed in a horse-shoe configuration. Photo / Supplied

A large Northland block of fertile land and buildings, that were designed to serve as a newly built ‘Kumara World’ styled centre that would educate school children and inform tourists about New Zealand’s kumara industry, will go under the hammer at the end of this month.

The complex, with accommodation facilities, is ideal for a variety of tourism, industrial, educational, community or religious uses, says Catherine Stewart of Bayleys Dargaville who is marketing 39 Maxwell Rd, Dargaville for sale by auction commencing 1pm on Wednesday July 31.

Located 8km south of the Northland township Dargaville - in an area producing 75 per cent of New Zealand’s kumara crop - the centre has been built by local couple Warren and Mavis Suckling – who have grown kumaras in the North Kaipara region for several decades.

The couple have for many years operated The Kumara Box, a tourist attraction located 7km southwest of Dargaville. Warren Suckling, who doubles as Ernie the Kumara King, entertains tourists within a drying shed on the family’s 36ha at Pouto Rd kumara farm that has been converted into a 75-seat theatre. A projector screens The Kumara Story, a DVD the Sucklings have made that depicts ‘Ernie’ growing kumara. Tourists can then view a display of historical kumara industry memorabilia before being taken on a tour of the working kumara farm. 

“Warren and Mavis are incredibly passionate about growing kumara,” Stewart says. “It was their dream to build this additional venue and facility that would attract the likes of school students and tourists to visit Dargaville to learn more about the cultivation and use of kumara.

“The centre for sale was the result of that vision, but has never been used. It has taken so much out of them over the years in getting to this stage. Now they are ready to retire and hand over the reins to another entrepreneur to take the complex to the next level.”

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The complex encompasses two separate dormitory blocks. Photo / Supplied

The main complex includes:

  • high-stud 20m by 12m concrete floored hall/auditorium;
  • a full commercial-grade kitchen with stainless-steel benching, extraction unit, combi’ oven, convection oven, four-hob grill, hot plate, dishwasher unit, and upright refrigeration and chiller cabinets;
  • two separate dormitory blocks – one capable of accommodating up to 37 people and the other fitted out to sleep up to 36 people in bunk bed sleeping arrangements;
  • a 10sq m stand-alone administrative offices and adjoining sick-bay;
  • a separate ablution block containing two wheelchair-friendly toilet and shower units, and another six standard toilet and shower units, with water heated through a Rinnai hot water heater and all connected to a septic tank and wastewater system;
  • a flood-lit tennis court; and
  • a 55sq m ‘quaint’ two-bedroom owner or manager’s cottage.

Stewart says the complex’s buildings have been constructed in a horse-shoe configuration – surrounding a tennis court that can be floodlit for night games – while the two accommodation wings, ablution blocks, and kitchen/dining hall are all linked by a network of covered walkways.

She says the venue has consent for parking two buses on the concreted driveway, which is attractively planted with palms, and there is additional parking space for up to 15 vehicles on an adjoining metalled yard. Both areas can be illuminated at night by spotlight towers – with electricity lines linked to the property’s own transformer.

“The complex is fitted with sensor lights enabling guests or workers to easily negotiate their way around at night.”

The buildings are fitted out with fire alarms complemented by a fire hydrant. Water is supplied via six water tanks and heated by gas.

Water for the showers, bathroom and kitchen amenities is collected off the building roofs and reticulated in a quartet of 30,000 litre plastic tanks located on the property’s boundary. Two additional separate 30,000 litre water storage tanks have also been installed at the site for exclusive use by the fire service – with a fire hose connection installed.

Sewage is fed into an underground 30,000 septic tank and concrete pumping chamber, while wastewater is pumped along a pipe network to irrigate a landscaped garden area.

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A feature of the centre is its 20m by 12m high-stud auditorium. Photo / Supplied

A specifically designed and engineered septic system, which is ‘Eco-environmental’ to the latest standards, is enhanced by plantings of various colourful cannon plants.

Also on the property is a separate two bedroom, one bathroom cottage, which could be used as manager's accommodation.

“While the property was created to be a kumara education facility, it could just as easily operate as a seasonal workplace accommodation venue,” Stewart says.

“Every season over March and April scores of migrant workers come into the Dargaville and Northern Kaipara area from the Pacific Islands – with the region’s backpackers’ and shearer’ quarters used to house them,” she says.

“Being in the heart of ‘kumara country’ it is perfectly fitted out to accommodate a casual labour force – with the two separate dormitories’ and bathroom blocks allowing for the appropriate segregation of male and female workers.

“It could also accommodate a similar workforce under the Government’s One Billion Trees Programme with seedling planting taking place over the autumn and winter months.”

Stewart cites figures from the economic data-analysis agency Infometrics showing that the agriculture, forestry and fishing sector contributed 9.1 per cent of Dargaville’s gross domestic product in the year ending March 31, 2018, with the construction sector close behind, contributing 8.6 per cent of Dargaville’s gross domestic product.

The same Infometrics report revealed that total employment in Dargaville was up 8.2 per cent in the year to March 31, 2018 – compared to the national increase of 3 per cent of the same period. Over a 10-year period, employment in Dargaville grew by an average of 2.5 per cent annually – compared to 1.3 per cent for the whole of New Zealand.

“Those workers employed in the rural parts of the province need somewhere to stay, so a new owner of the Maxwell Road complex could easily establish the venue as a short term accommodation provider,” Stewart says.

“It has also been suggested the site could operate as a place of worship, or a self-sustaining lifestyle commune. The land portion of the location includes a substantial paddock of kumara planted in the nutrient-rich alluvial Kaipara flat soil - yielding healthy crops of red and beauregard varieties of sweet potatoes every autumn.

“The flat land has been tile-drained with its rich soils easily able to sustain a small market gardening business or alternative vegetable crops; while other parts of the property could be developed to sustain a small number of farm animals or livestock capable of feeding a small community or congregation.”