By Emma Darragh
Viv and Ed Eliot are a Coromandel couple living a true Coromandel Goodness love story. This is the story of their passion and commitment to two coastal locations: Tairua, on the Coromandel Peninsula, and a small island southwest of Timor, Indonesia. This is the story of their simultaneous connection and contribution to both places. Together they have created a unique lifestyle that brings the best of both worlds to themselves and those around them.
Viv and Ed’s initial visit to Tairua was to attend the now iconic Tairua School Wine and Food festival back in 2002. They had a blast and felt Tairua was somewhere they could see themselves living. They wanted their three sons to have the same free and easy coastal childhood they had enjoyed, having both grown up in Mount Maunganui. “The Mount 40 years ago was like Tairua has been for the last 15 years,” explains Viv. They moved from the Mount to the Coromandel just three months after that first visit. Ed gained work as a builder and their children attended the school which offered the initial introduction.
Ed says; “When we moved to Tairua, we learnt to socialise with all ages. You’d go to a barbecue that someone up the street invited you to an hour beforehand. Kids were always welcome. We weren’t just socialising with a bunch of people in their 20’s and 30’s. We have no regrets about moving to Tairua - our only regret was we should have done it sooner.”
The Coromandel Peninsula’s famously wet winter proved a challenge however, and it motivated the couple’s first trip to Indonesia nine years ago, seeking sun, surf and a brief change of scenery. The getaway suited them so well they’ve repeated it every winter since, which has deepened their appreciation for both places. Viv loves the people, culture and beauty of Indonesia and returns to Tairua refreshed and ready for summer.
Ed is especially fond of West Timor because of the uncrowded waves and the surf, which he says is world-class perfection. Ed’s humanitarian values compelled him to help the people of the island, asking ‘what do they need?’ Water, as it turned out. Something so taken for granted in the West, yet the reason behind a concerningly high infant mortality rate in the area. Ed got to work at once, setting up the Friends of East Indonesia charitable organisation and raising awareness and funds back in the Coromandel. Ed worked with his friends in West Timor to supply fresh clean drinkable water to over 200 children at one of the local schools.
By the end of 2014 they had shipped their own water filtration system and are now providing water to 6000 children at fifteen schools. “It’s paying for itself, because the tourists come and buy the water,” explains Ed. His next goal is to centralise another filtration system at a cost of $30,000, which will service another fifteen schools. “That will mean we’ve got fresh water to thirty schools.” The impact of providing fresh water to the children has been significant. Local doctors and nurses are now seeing a lower infant mortality rate than before the project started.
The Eliots bring stories of their adopted West Timor community back to the Coromandel after every visit, and in doing so, raise awareness and inspire local people and organisations to support the water in schools project. This year, Viv and Ed took their youngest son Cade to Indonesia with them, taking three weeks out of studying for NCEA Level 1 because his parents knew the value of what he would learn. “All the boys are really proud of their dad for what he has set up; but for Cade to see it, he realised the impact,” says Viv.
Back in the Coromandel, the couple have brought the warmth and hospitality of Indonesia back to share with others. Together, Viv and Ed have designed and built the Beach Break Studio on their property, which perfectly frames the ever-changing estuary, the Tairua bar and Pauanui mountain. It is a small slice of paradise just a stone’s throw from Ocean Beach. Viv’s exuberant warmth, her love of people and her passion for creating relaxed living spaces culminate to create a memorable holiday experience for guests. The Eliots’ aim for the studio is to offer somewhere special yet affordable for couples to enjoy a romantic beach getaway. They welcome guests exploring the Coromandel from overseas, as well as local city dwellers wanting a weekend break without the stress of having to travel too far from home.
Viv and Ed certainly appreciate the benefits of a decent beach break, so they know exactly what to offer their guests, prioritising views, comfort, privacy and relaxation. The studio’s Indonesian decor inspires the exotic atmosphere of a hidden tropical paradise. It is also Viv and Ed’s tribute to that other coastal location which has become so close to their hearts. Ed is sometimes asked why he chooses to visit and initiate a humanitarian project in another country. “I don’t believe in borders,” he says. “I believe humans are born to help one another, and human kindness is inherent and has the power to change us for the better. I believe in equal opportunity and social justice. If we can balance the scales, it’s fair. It’s also about being an example to people that it can be done.”
To learn more about the Friends of East Indonesia, visit https://www.facebook.com/FriendsOfEastIndonesia/
For Beach Break Studio Tairua, visit