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‘Kiwi Dundee’ now right at home at OCE

Jan Poole and Doug Johansen’s shared love of nature and desire to showcase New Zealand’s natural beauty to the world has created a lifetime of special memories.

Their home in Omokoroa Country Estate is brimming with treasures – golden lumps of kauri gum which Doug has hand-polished, precious metals collected from rivers and mountainsides, giant slabs of kauri transformed into furniture, and a piece of wood Doug pulled out of the bush near Pauanui which is over 12 million years-old.

The couple first met 25 years ago and threw themselves into developing Doug’s Coromandel-based guiding company Kiwi Dundee Adventures.

“I spent my childhood in the Coromandel bush, hunting wild pigs and shooting pheasants with Dad,” Doug explains. “But it wasn’t the hunting I enjoyed, it was being in the bush.”

Doug’s efforts in the 1970s to stop the Government clear-felling native bush in the Coromandel to replant with pine trees subsequently earned him a Queen’s Service Medal (QSM). It’s an honour he shares with Jan who has her own QSM for services to the Katikati community for her work chairing Katikati College’s board of trustees and assisting June Carlton to develop Katikati’s open air art mural group.

Together the couple spent decades running personalised tours for international visitors showing off the best New Zealand has to offer, picking up many eco-tourism awards and accolades along the way.

“We’ve been to some amazing places,” Jan recalls. “The National Park in Tongariro is one of our favourites. The South Island’s West Coast. Stewart Island. And the Coromandel of course. We’ve stayed in all the top luxury lodges in New Zealand and would take people hiking, fishing, diving, camping, arrange Māori cultural experiences, pan for gold or visit wineries… whatever their interests were, we’d personalise the tour for them.”

Doug is fortunate to have a photographic memory so had no trouble memorising the names of 40 foreign tourists as they piled onto a tour bus. “But I had to wear a badge so I could remember my own name!” he jokes.

Many years ago he was crowned “Kiwi Dundee” in a newspaper competition and the nickname stuck. His amazing sense of humour coupled with knowledge of the bush and native species made him an impeccable guide. With the support of the New Zealand tourism board, the couple travelled overseas on numerous occasions to promote the country, appearing on radio and television shows in the process. “America was probably our biggest market followed by the UK and Australia. It’s been a wonderful life,” Doug says.

Their tours often involved taking guests to their own home in the Coromandel – a 10ha block in the mountains just north of Whangamata. The couple planted 10,000 native trees on the property which was 1000ft above sea level and had sweeping views across the Pinnacles, out to Mayor Island and all the way down the coast to White Island.

While they were reluctant to leave the Coromandel, Doug’s spine is now damaged from so much physical labour. “I’ve carried over a dozen people out of the bush on my back over the years which didn’t help,” he explains, and the time recently came to downsize.

With children and grandchildren living nearby in Pahoia, Omokoroa Country Estate was a great option for the pair. A house became available in late 2021 with views over the water to the Coromandel mountains – a place which holds so many dear memories.

Doug is now enjoying not having to worry about any outside maintenance and upkeep, and Jan is very impressed with the flexibility of OCE’s gardening team who have helped plant more natives in their garden to attract the birds. “The gardeners are really very good at OCE” she says. “They’ve put in a native corokia hedge, tītoki, manuka and we’ve got some kōwhai trees. We’ve put in a birdie bath there so the birds come in. It means a lot to us.”

Jan is a keen cyclist and regularly joins her girlfriends on e-bike tours around the country, while Doug is making the most of Omokoroa’s coastal cycleway/walkway by driving his mobility scooter, sometimes as far as Te Puna and back. “I just enjoy the birds and the scenery. It’s a beautiful drive and it gets me back into nature which is what we both love.”

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