A desire to swap a fast-paced city existence for a more relaxed lifestyle was the primary motivator for the Ransoms’ move to the Wairarapa …but they also discovered an exciting business opportunity lay here for them in the world of tourism.

It didn’t take long for Graeme Ransom and his wife Diane to decide on moving to the Wairarapa from Auckland. Aside from the obvious differences of traffic flows, population size and general busy-ness, it was actually the similarities between Wairarapa and Waiheke Island, a place where Graeme had spent the past seven years working, that attracted him.

“To me, Wairarapa is to Wellington what Waiheke Island is to Auckland – it’s a bit laid back, a bit unpretentious and a beautiful scenic place to get away from it all,” says Graeme, who moved to Masterton in April. 

“Looking back, I suppose we could have gone to Te Kuiti or Taihape, but we need to earn a living. Diane’s brother lives in Masterton and I could see the tremendous opportunities in the region for tourism. Frankly, the major tourist areas in New Zealand are rapidly reaching a saturation point. Tourism will continue to grow in coming years and the regions are the only place left that can accommodate growth.”

“It was a bit of a gamble but we’re so pleased we came. We love the range of amenities Masterton has after living on an island and if we can’t find it here, we usually can in Carterton or Greytown. People are genuinely friendly and are interested in each other.”

“My only complaint is that I’m not sure people here appreciate how good the Wairarapa is.”

Graeme was born in Taihape and educated in Auckland. After gaining a BA in politics and training as a primary teacher, he stood for Parliament twice in the 80s. He then spent 25 years working in Melbourne as a cab driver and chauffeur and says “he’s seen and heard everything!”

When the lure of New Zealand proved too strong, he chose to settle on Waiheke Island and there, met Diane, a hairdresser. His foray into tourism came in 2010 when he established Around Waiheke Tours, a successful boutique tour that gave visitors to the island a tailored morning or afternoon experience exploring coastal scenery and award winning wineries. Graeme says his clients came from all over the world and he even got his share of celebrities including American actress Vanessa Hudgens, who rose to fame in the High School Musical series. 

After running the tours for seven years and building his customer base to 8000 visitors per annum, a desire for a complete change in lifestyle prompted he and Diane to move to the Wairarapa. Seeing similarities between the two regions, he’s decided to launch Country Village Heaven Tours, an exciting day tour designed to encourage shoppers to visit Greytown and the wine village of Martinborough from Wellington.

“The tour is a complete end to end service that includes train tickets from Wellington, being met at Woodside Station, lunch, wine tasting in Martinborough and of course, the all-important shopping experience,” says Graeme, “I’ll be launching in spring just in time for the warmer months and to attract visitors attending big events in Wellington, such as The World Of Wearable Art, who would like a relaxing day out shopping and eating in the Wairarapa.”

Graeme is genuinely excited about the tour, hoping it will benefit everybody in the community. He’s been amazed with the level of support he has received from Destination Wairarapa, the regional tourism organisation and the Greytown Country Village Heaven marketing group. 

While Graeme will be the primary “face and voice” of Country Village Heaven Tours he will be joined by his friend and Greytown resident Nick Theobold, a former member of the legendary New Zealand country group The Warratahs.

“Nick and I go way back, in fact he used to take guided tours around Waiheke Island for upmarket guests. He’s knowledgeable, relaxed and entertaining so will be a great asset for me. We have a lot of synergies going on so I feel very optimistic about the future.”