You can’t really go on about Rotorua pride if you leave out something that most Kiwis are proud to own and wear: pounamu.
We talked to the ecommerce and brand manager of Mountain Jade, Rich Barter. Rich’s story is, well, rich. He’s one of those people with a varied career, who fell in love with New Zealand and decided to stay.
How long have you lived in Rotorua?
I’m originally from the UK, and spent most of my life living in leafy South Bucks; as a child growing up in a village called Loudwater and later moving to Amersham. When people ask me where Amersham is, I’ll point them to the to the furthermost top left corner of the London Underground map – where it can be found as the last stop on the Metropolitan Line. If you’re a soccer fan, Amersham is equidistant between Watford and High Wycombe (the home of the mighty Wycombe Wanderers).
I met my now wife Louisa, as teenagers, growing up in this area and we married in our early 20s. I was working for an eCommerce agency building websites for the likes of Burberry, while she trained as a doctor at University College London. In 2008 we decided to look at spending a year abroad in New Zealand – somewhere we had visited and loved. A friend of ours was cousins with a GP from Rotorua and that connection meant within no time at all we were on our way. That was thirteen years, a love affair with a destination, and three children ago.
What do you love most about Rotorua and why?
Originally we lived out at Lake Rotoiti. Waking up every morning with views of the morning sunshine glimmering on the lake, felt like we were living a dream. As keen trail runners, the Whakarewarewa Forest opened up a playground to us that was almost unthinkably good. Another day in paradise!
Easy access to the beaches in summer and snow in the winter, meant you were never more than a short road trip away from more incredible places. Rotorua felt in so many ways the perfect location. Connecting to people in this community came easily and so we always felt a sense of belonging here and that’s been amplified since having kids at school.
Rotorua offers so much in the way of culture, people and landscape, I can’t think of a better place to live.
Do you have any hobbies or pastimes that take advantage of our beautiful region?
I’m a massive soccer fan, and have been a coach for over two decades. so I’ve really loved being able to be involved here across different clubs. My last two years as president of Eastlake Junior Soccer Club have been a lot of fun – giving back to the community that has welcomed me.
I’m a bit of a novice on the mountain bike, but now my kids are getting older they will take me on the trails and show me how it’s done.
I’ve been pretty lucky to have run in six of the IRONMAN Tarawera Ultramarathon events. An event born here, that showcases Rotorua on the world stage. In 2018 I ran the 100km, and this February I completed the MILER (165km trail race). Working for Mountain Jade and being able to present the finishers of this gruelling event their pounamu toki (adze) [see the story here] is one of the most emotive and meaningful things I think I’ll ever get to do. These points of connection are typical of what being part of Rotorua is about.
Do you have a favourite café or restaurant in Rotorua? Who are they and what’s your favourite dish?
We’re pretty lucky to have so many great cafes, but my personal favourite is Ciabatta Café & Bakery. I’m not ashamed to say bread is 100% my guilty pleasure, so going there and indulging in their made-on-site artisan ciabatta sandwiches is food of the gods! Even after a filling sandwich, the cabinet is always impossible to resist. If ever we have a day off, Louisa and I will have a date lunch there and share an almond croissant (or two…).
When you have friends or family visit, what do you recommend they do while they’re here and why?
If I have family visit from the UK and they have never been to New Zealand, I rub my hands together because I know there are so many world-class locations and attractions, that will blow them away. I will always try and make sure they visit at least one of the geothermal sites – Waimangu Volcanic Valley is my favourite.
For people like my folks, I would probably take them to Redwoods Treewalk so I can show off ‘my back garden’ of the forest from the impressive elevated walking bridges. I especially enjoyed this experience when I did it at night, with the lights illuminating the trees. While if it was pals visiting, more my own age, I’d pitch for something to get the adrenaline pumping a bit more, such as rafting down the Kaituna River with Rotorua Rafting.
Of course, no trip to Rotorua would be complete without visiting Mountain Jade and discovering the art of carving pounamu on a guided tour where you get to meet local artists and uncover the significance of pounamu for Māori.