The temperature has hit the 30’s on the day I visit the Hill family, at Lake Hood. I’m greeted by 11-year-old Harriet, in her swimming togs, and a very excited black Labrador. In the background I can hear the squeals and splashing of kids enjoying water.

Shane and Ellie built the house in 2015 and say there’s never been a dull moment since. From the entranceway you can see right through to the water, and the house branches out into a light, bright, four-bedroomed family home. Built by Stonewood Homes with some work also carried out by Southern Traverse Builders, it’s a home that flows. Everything is clean and simple with high ceilings, white walls and woodgrain flooring all contributing to a sense of relaxation and space.

Originally, the big drawcard for the couple was not just the water, but also the section size. “We did look, briefly, in town, but to be honest, once we’d looked out here, we stopped looking anywhere else – we just got so much more here for the same price.” 

Ellie laughs when she recalls that they moved in, in winter, Harriet was just eight years old at the time, and Cameron was six. “Every day Cam asked if he could go swimming in the lake. “Being a responsible Mum, the answer was a resounding ‘no,’ or ‘maybe next week.’  After a few weeks of that though, I gave up, said yes. He went into the water, came straight out, and didn’t ask again until summer!”

As we move on through, I soon discover the source of the splashing and squeals – there’s a slide on the water’s edge so the kids can launch themselves out with plenty of momentum, and Cam is also having great fun riding his bike, which has several ‘floaties’ attached, at full speed down the boat ramp.  He’s not getting far once he hits the water – the pedalling’s not easy but the bike floats “better than it did yesterday.” 

“We built the house for the water, but we didn’t really know just how much it would shape the way we live. We love it. It’s like living in a holiday home all year round. During summer we pretty much live outside.” The lake-side deck is like having another living area, which is a huge benefit in summer when large numbers of family and friends visit. “We do get a lot of visitors, but we enjoy it all.” they laugh.

“A friend who was living out here before we moved, told me to make sure I always had frozen sausages in the house, and now I know why!” Ellie laughs. “Those sausages are fantastic!

Most days they have the boat in the water. “If it’s doable and the kids want to ski, then that’s what we do, but they also have kayaks if they just want to paddle around, and it’s a great place to teach a kid to fish. fish. Some days we have local kids, the neighbour’s grandkids and any others that might be visiting, all lining the bank. You almost always catch something – half an hour, tops.  They know where they’re allowed to swim and where they’re not, and there’s no bridge jumping until they’re older!”

As a family, they say the move has been wonderful. Says Shane: “It’s a great community. If you go for a walk you spend more time chatting than you do walking.” “It feels safer than living in town too,” Ellie adds. “It has been really good for all of us. The kids can go to the playground. The school bus picks up right at the gate and there are five boys from Cam’s class living out here, so they’ve got mates to meet up with and ride around. There are netball and basketball hoops dotted around the neighbourhood, there’s one just out the back.  We can use the tennis courts and Shane and I do have the odd game of golf, but mostly, we’re doing something on the water.”

The water, Shane says, is the reason he still has work to do in the backyard. “I love to water-ski, and it’s a shame to waste good skiing time digging holes to plant trees.” Of course, winter is not the time to do it either – so the trees will happen – one day! 

In winter they light the wood-burner, cosy up, and look at the water, which Ellie says is still pretty lovely. “It’s never the same,” she says. “There’s beautiful wildlife; black swans, geese and shags, every now and then we see white herons. People still go on the water too – just not so often. We’re more likely to see kayaks, canoes and paddleboards out as the season changes.”

One down-side, perhaps, of living here, is that they’re reluctant to leave.

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Judy McAuliffe is a writer, and publisher Essence Mid Canterbury. Her experience in media is extensive and includes approximately 15 years as Creative Director for The Radio Network, writing, and managing the writing of radio advertising, mainly in Invercargill and Greymouth. In the late 1990’s she transferred to Christchurch, moving into an Account Management role with 91ZM. In 2007 she and a business partner set up Essence Mid Canterbury, very quickly adapting her radio-writing skills to print media. Judy became sole owner of Essence Mid Canterbury in June 2014. Judy is a ‘people person’ and has found her niche writing feature stories about the community she lives in and the people who live there. She is also available for freelance writing assignments.