Hidden among the trees on the shores of Rangitoto Island 8km north-east of Auckland, stand wooden holiday homes known locally as ‘baches’. They are not old – most were built in the 1920s – but they are historic and some of them have their own house history displayed on a small sign at their entrance.
No baches were constructed after 1937 and as leases on the existing buildings expired they were not renewed. Consequently most of the baches are no longer used but remain with their furniture, household and personal contents almost as if the family might just pull their boat into the tiny jetty and haul their groceries up to the front door.
The stories of these bach communities are intriguing. Everything had to be brought to the island by boat: building materials, tools, furniture, supplies. Since many were built during the Depression they demonstrate ingenuity and resourcefulness in finding materials that could be re-used.
Edwin Hart, for instance, bought a truck case for £10 in 1923, took it to pieces, loaded it onto his boat and took it out to the island, then built a kitchen on the side made out of driftwood. Another resident, Vi Leech who lived on Rangitoto for almost 40 years, decorated her bach and the surrounding area with mosaics using broken glass and shells.
Some of the baches are being restored by the Rangitoto Island Historic Conservation Trust who are recording the oral histories of former residents and collecting photographs and other memorabilia to preserve this special example of New Zealand’s cultural history.