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Life’s a beach at Riversdale

By Chelsea Boyle

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On a good day, Riversdale Beach is as close to a slice of heaven one can get, and every man and his dog will be out on the golden sands, lapping up the sunshine.

Among them will be the president of the Riversdale Beach Ratepayers’ Association cheerily waving to the people he passes by in the tidy residential area as he walks his dog, Pokie.

There would only be a handful of people Bill Roberts does not know in a town dotted with holiday homes that have been passed down generations, their owners in town to enjoy a “quiet getaway.”

Riversdale might be a “sleepy hollow” in winter but come summer time people flock to the beach in droves.

“The surf club is chokka, the golf club is chokka,” Mr Roberts said.

Kevin Fearon and Bill Roberts. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE
Kevin Fearon and Bill Roberts. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE

Mr Roberts and the association’s project manager Kevin Fearon are both keenly aware of the legacy left by Basil Bodle, who established the settlement in the 1950s and had big dreams developing a golf course at the settlement.

With a spark of Kiwi ingenuity here and there, Mr Roberts and Mr Fearon have been creating a legacy of their own.

Most recently, they have added another loop to the Riversdale Beach Southern Reserve in a bid to give people better access around the wetlands as well as expansive views of the beach.

As they extended the loop to the top, they were beginning to think it might have to be a dead-end track, where people could admire the views but would have to return the same way they came.

But they couldn’t quite leave it alone.

“We wouldn’t let it beat us,” Mr Fearon said.

They added 39 steps to help people navigate the way down the other side of the hill.

Now, keen joggers time themselves around the tougher top loop of rugged coastline.

They love it, it gives them a bit of a challenge, Mr Roberts said.

Mr Fearon and Mr Roberts have more ideas tucked up their sleeves for the Riversdale settlement.

They would love to see the children’s playground developed to include a larger basketball court and some trees planted around the edges for shade.

Another idea on the wish list is create an area where holiday campers can park up, something which would allow more people to enjoy the area.

Mr Roberts has been a permanent resident of Riversdale for about 15 years and it has given him many fond memories, including the get together of the Rat Run Club.

A group of locals noticed that around a certain time of night a rat kept popping up near the Riversdale Store.

So, they started meeting up, clad in printed shirts that said ‘been there, done rat’, and placed bets on when the rodent would rear its head.

The group’s meetings have long outlived the rat that banded them together.

While Mr Roberts is no longer a regular at the gatherings, preferring to keep his feet near the fire on a cold night, that community spirit is his favourite thing about Riversdale.

It comes as no surprise there is hearty competition in the local fishing club, with a weighing station keeping tally and a big Christmas function to ring in the annual winners.

Everyone in Riversdale looked after each other, Mr Roberts said.

“If anyone here gets sick, everyone chips in . . . they don’t have to be asked.”


‘Best little surf club’

Riversdale's new Surf Lifesaving Clubrooms. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE
Riversdale’s new Surf Lifesaving Clubrooms. PHOTO/CHELSEA BOYLE

A true feather in the cap of Riversdale Beach is the brand-new Surf Life Saving clubrooms.

Club captain Mike Taylor said they managed to build the clubrooms in less than a year.

“We are very fortunate with the calibre of people we have on the committee,” he said.

With that and the backing of the community, they had been able to build the top-notch facilities quickly.

It was sure to be well-used with the lifeguard patrol chalking up almost 3000 hours last season.

Among those hours were 24 rescues, two searches and 591 preventative actions.

Mr Taylor said surf lifesaving offers a lot for kids, it boosted their independence and confidence.

For every budding lifeguard, the journey starts the same way, with lifeguards teaching them how to spot a rip, a hole, or a sandbar while both feet were still firmly on the shore.

If you think you should head for a spot with no waves you are going about it the wrong way.

Kids who are keen to learn can start lifeguard training in term 4.

President of the Riversdale Beach Ratepayer’s Association Bill Roberts said it was quite simply the “best little surf club in New Zealand”.


  1. We have our spot at Riversdale and love it. With our kids at Whareama School down the road we have found the perfect balance in our lives. Work, life, school and family balance mean so much to us.

Comments are closed.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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