The Didsburys – Bringing people together

In the early 2000s, as corner stores and local delis were regularly swallowed up by mega supermarkets, Richard and Christine Didsbury had a different vision for Matakana.

The couple purchased the old timber yard, with the idea of creating a destination village to attract visitors to the Matakana region. There would be arthouse cinemas, boutique shops, communal spaces linking the main street to the almost-forgotten river’s edge, and at the heart of it all, a farmers’ market. ‘Markets bring people together,’ says Christine.

Back then most New Zealand markets were of the pop-up variety, selling a mixture of produce and bric-a-brac. When friends Trish Allen and Joe Polaischer of Rainbow Valley Farm shared photos of authentic farmers’ markets they had visited in Japan, Christine and Richard became determined to create something similar in Matakana.

The focus would be firmly on locally grown food produced by the stallholders themselves, with a certified commercial kitchen enabling small producers to meet compliance requirements.

Engaging architect Noel Lane and landscape designer Garth Falconer they redeveloped the former timber yard into a stunning yet understated complex.  The result has delivered high-quality retail shops, that have been carefully curated to provide a variety of experiences; the cinema complex with its artful foyer; a restaurant and wine bar and a range of other spaces all surrounded by beautifully planted gardens.

The surprise jewel is the spectacular arthouse cinema complex featuring three dramatic theatres: the Paradiso with a ceiling of 10,000 paper roses; the Roxy, draped in romantic fabrics from ceiling to floor with the incredible Tivoli theatre with a stunning centrepiece of an 800kg chandelier.

The Matakana Village Farmers’ Market opened in 2004 and was an instant success, drawing locals and visitors to the river’s edge to enjoy food, music and community all year round.  Unusual among New Zealand farmers’ markets this market has a dedicated structure and a certified kitchen so that food can be produced on site.

The market has become an incubator for small producers, and many have been able to turn a home business into something much bigger, such as Lindesay Smith’s Matakana Coffee Roasters and Delwyn Ward’s Daily Organics.

‘So many exciting things continue to unfold, like the sustainable whitebait grown in Warkworth,’ says Christine and for Richard  “The creation of a place for friends to met up at one of the number of eateries in the village or taking in an arthouse film in the magnificent cinema, we hope that a visit to Matakana will create memories to treasure for visitors.”

For those visitors who can not make the markets on a Saturday many of the producers now have their own shops where you can purchase their products in the Matakana Village or nearby in the growing township of Warkworth.  From the cascading cherry blossoms of spring to the riches of autumn leaves, a visit will have you finding something to savour in every season.