Waikato cocky closes popular tourist attraction at Wairere Falls


Simon Bourke and his ‘International Seat of Peace’ at Wairere Falls, Waikato.

DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

Simon Bourke and his ‘International Seat of Peace’ at Wairere Falls, Waikato.

A seat in a farmer’s field that offered breathtaking views overlooking the Waikato is now off-limits to hoards of visitors.

The International Seat of Peace has been a tourist hot spot for years, but now the man behind it has made the tough call to close it off from public visits.

The $11.8m farm has been put on the market and Matamata farmer Simon Bourke told Stuff he can’t afford to keep the paddock open after the year he had.

Three years ago Bourke closed off Paddock 66 on his family’s 313-hectare farm, keeping cows out and welcoming visitors in.

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His maintained prized paddock is located in Kaimai Mamaku Conservation Park and can be found 15-minutes up the Wairere Falls track near an opening in the bush.

He made the seat from a railway sleeper and etched ‘international seat of peace’ into it.

It has welcomed people from across the globe, brought its creator endless amounts of joy and provided views people normally pay to see.

Bourke is upset he has had to close Paddock 66 to the public.

DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

Bourke is upset he has had to close Paddock 66 to the public.

It was such a success the location scored itself a spot on Tripadvisor and was dubbed a ‘tourist attraction’ online.

According to Bourke close to 1200 people check out the seat every day, all year round.

“On the weekend the carpark is full, you can’t even get a park,” Bourke said.

The public have been devastated it has closed, he said, “a lot of people use it, it’s a tourist destination”.

Wairere Falls – one of the North Island’s tallest waterfalls – has around 60,000 visitors each year.

The track weaves through moss-covered rocks and tree roots. Large round boulders form natural pools and cascading waterfalls.

The attraction draws big crowds all year round.

DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

The attraction draws big crowds all year round.

But after 18-years of working on the farm, it is now up for sale and Bourke can’t afford to keep the paddock open.

Bourke is $15,000 out-of-pocket after his portable ice cream shop was stolen from the paddock in June.

“I’m $15,000 out of pocket and no one got prosecuted for it.

“I’ve wasted so much time, money and effort getting someone to be liable for it.

“I used to bring my building [ice-cream shop] up here on a tractor, with a generator on the back and could plug an ice-cream machine on the back.”

The track leading to Wairere Falls.

DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

The track leading to Wairere Falls.

In April, Bourke dished out 150 free ice creams to Wairere Falls hikers in two hours. He was one cog away from opening the shop for good.

“When my shop was stolen, I got no response, so I can’t afford to continue.

“I’d be up here now selling ice-cream if I could.

“I’m going to miss it.”

Bourke is hoping whoever buys the farm will keep Paddock 66 as a public reserve so people can once again enjoy the seat and its view.

“Once it’s sold it becomes farmland.

“It needs to be a public reserve and create a non-profit organisation that maintains it.”

Otherwise, it will stay how it is, and belong to whoever owns the farm, he said.

“If I could bring back the ice cream shop after the farm sold, I would at the drop of a hat.”

The Wairere Falls is a popular walking track in the Waikato.

DOMINICO ZAPATA/STUFF

The Wairere Falls is a popular walking track in the Waikato.