Making the most of Tauherenikau, Rose & Smith offers a new venue for weddings and corporate events. By Simon Burt.

Matthew Sherry, Club Secretary and Racing and Events Centre Marketing Manager, says the club is full of new vigour. With a schedule of only four meetings a year, the issue has always been what to do with their massive infrastructure between race-days. Although the grass surrounding the racecourse has long been farmed, and the picturesque facilities occasionally used for weddings, the sprawling complex – hidden away down a long drive – has always felt somewhat under-utilised.

Recently the century-old kiosk in the grounds has been given a major makeover and prominent wedding planner Paula Bevege is promoting it in partnership with the club as her preferred Wairarapa venue.

“We’ve put chandeliers in, gathered up some antique furniture, painted throughout and given the bathrooms a serious upgrade,” says Matthew.

Named after the kiosk’s builders in 1923, Rose & Smith is set among native and English trees and features a large catering area with ovens, freezer and walk-in chiller.

“With those facilities it’s ideal for corporate functions as well as weddings,” Matthew says.

The stewards’ stand has also been upgraded recently and has a Ladies toilet for the first time in its 100-year-old existence.

Summer concert

January 2018 sees the third Wairarapa Country Music Festival to be held at Tauherenikau, the first having featured the Warratahs followed by The Topp Twins in 2017. This summer’s event features country pop queen Jody Direen as the headline act and Matthew is excited. “Jody is huge in the South Island and in Australia,” he says.

“She’s renowned for her very up-beat live act and we know it’ll be a big final night for the festival.”

The festival is co-organised by Kidnappers Country Music from Hawke’s Bay.

“They bring some of the artists for the sets leading up to headline night. We market it along with Destination Wairarapa. Kidnappers do the staging and lighting. It’s a very good partnership, it works well and it’s growing,” says Matthew. The festival has been attracting around 2,500 country music lovers with a contingent of 260 motorhomes and caravans parked up for the weekend in 2017.

Travellers welcome

Not much more than a year old, the Tauherenikau Motorhome and Caravan Park has proved hugely successful. “It was the first thing that seemed obvious to me when I started here,” says Matthew. “The area is used for picnicking at the race meetings and people have always loved the ambience. Now we’ve become a venue for the traveller, a market that was never tapped previously.”

Fees are reasonable and there are very attractive parking spots under ancient tawa and kahikatea trees. “We’re not yet offering full facilities in the park so for now it’s certified self-contained vehicles only.”

A recent initiative for the club was to offer ticket and accommodation packages for motorhomers attending Toast Martinborough, with buses shuttling attendees between the event and the Caravan Park.

The adjacent jockeys’ quarters have for some time been used as accommodation for school groups and clubs wanting a peaceful, low-cost getaway for team building or other gatherings. It is surrounded by native bush and only a few steps from the Tauherenikau River.