SIGN OF THE TIMES: Byron’s Resort – no longer what it used to be. Photo Ōtaki Today
Wellington reader Lesley Shaw has written to Ōtaki Today saying she has noticed Byron’s Resort at Ōtaki Beach has fallen into disrepair.
“Not that long ago, the restaurant would be full of customers enjoying good food and drink, outside in summer and the lovely fireplace in the winter,” she wrote. “But now the whole place is in need of a facelift, a coat of paint would help. The campground is also looking very sad, and one wonders if many people still stay there.”
She wonders if it might close soon and be demolished – “That would be such a shame as it has the potential to be returned to its former glory and once again be a focal point at the beach.”
In response, Byron’s manager John Morrisey, son of Tony Morrisey who owns the facility with wife Michelle Day, told Ōtaki Today Byron’s was for all intents and purposes no longer a campground.
“The campground was subdivided 11 years ago and nearly all the camp sites have been sold off,” he says. “It’s no longer a campground for holiday makers – only people who own the sites come on holiday.”
Also, with the housing crisis, Byron’s has been accommodating people who have nowhere else to live, from retirees to young families.
“We’ve sort of had to allow it to happen for the greater good because people are homeless out there.”
Meantime, the owners have had to maintain power and water reticulation, and upkeep of the communal facilities within a camp that’s more than 100 years old.
“Your writer surely must know businesses are struggling. We’re doing all we can to keep operating this business, but funds aren’t always as fruitful as one might think.
“There are things we need to spend money on at the camp to keep it running for all the people here, rather than giving a lick of paint to the front. We might look at doing that at some stage, but we’ve got a lot of other things going on.”
John says he’s disappointed that leasing the once-popular restaurant hasn’t worked out.
“In the last four years we’ve had that many different people take the lease of the restaurant,” he says. “It’s changed hands several times, and the last four operators at the restaurant had all been offered a year rent-free. They had no rent at all to help them try to establish a business here, for themselves and for the community.
“Not one of them has been able to make it work. I don’t think anyone will have been wanting to run a restaurant over the last two years, or even in this current climate.”
The restaurant remains closed, but at the time of writing Te Puna Oranga o Ōtaki was using it to provide meals for people isolating with Covid-19 and for people in the community who were struggling. To help the community, Byron’s was not charging the organisation for use of the kitchen.
“This was a great place in the past, and we’ve got all the photos here that show that, but things inevitably change. It would be great to go back to the 60s and 70s when things were a lot more easy-going,” John says.