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Thursday, 21 March 2019 01:17 pm

German recluse gives a rare look into his life

Wealthy German businessman Karl Reipen has shied from publicity in his nine years of farming 1300 hectares at Awakino in North Taranaki. But when he decided to donate Mt Taranaki’s Mountain House to charity, he agreed to talk to NewsWire’s SABRINA DANKEL (a German journalism student studying at Whitireia Journalism School):

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HORSE HOBBY: Karl Reipen with one of his Welsh Cobs. MORE PIX: see slide show below.

THE driveway to Awakino is curvy, narrow and, as the driver says, not a drive you would like to take when you come home from a night at the pub.

Wetlands on one side, hills on the other, and at one point the car has to go through a narrow tunnel before heading straight towards the farm buildings of Awakino Estate.

Located near Mokau in the south of the Waitomo District, the estate is about an hour’s drive away from New Plymouth.

When Karl Reipen, dishes up little German-style meatballs, I’m reminded of home. Mr Reipen, originally from Mönchengladbach in Germany, is the owner of Awakino Estate, which combines two farms, Awakino Heads and Pioi Station.

He is a man who creates controversy at times.

When he started cultivating wine on the northern side of his property, some “experts” predicted a failure: “Everyone said that’s a bad idea. And now see what we’ve got.”

He says his wine is from the “best vineyard in the King Country” – before conceding his vineyard is also the only one in the region.

The estate is also home to about 40 horses, including 11 well-bred German dressage stallions that are being trained for the ultimate goal of competing for New Zealand in the Olympics.

“We want to compete with our horses first in New Zealand, then in Australia and then in the world,” says Mr Reipen.

He has imported 11 horses and 14 ponies from Germany as “air cargo” via Luxemburg at a cost of about $NZ23,000.

By the time a horse finally arrives on the farm, it has been retained in quarantine for at least 24 days in Germany and another 14 in New Zealand. Mr Reipen is passionate about his stallions, but also rational.

“In Germany, there are many good horses, but in New Zealand there are only a few, so the chances to win are much, much higher here than there.”

Compared to New Zealand horses, the imported breed has different traits and therefore an advantage in the national competition, he says.

“It’s like an old, nice woman – and then seeing a much younger and much better-looking one right next to her.

“It’s fine as long as you don’t see the younger one, but then… You would go for the young one and the same is with the horses. When you see a nice horse and an even nicer one next to it, you buy the nicer one.”

Dressage New Zealand sports manager Wendy Hamerton says Mr Reipen is committed to purchasing quality young horses to be trained at highest level.

“Mr Reipen is an owner with a vision for New Zealand to succeed in dressage,” she says.

Horses must achieve Grand Prix Level 9 before being selected for the Olmpics.

According to Mrs Hamerton, Mr Reipen’s horses are currently competing between Level 3 and 5 in national competitions and therefore it is too early to tell if the Awakino horses will represent New Zealand in the 2012 Olympics.

Mr Reipen has 44 years of experience with horses and his family owned a wholesale business for imported equestrian gear in Germany.

One of his daughters, Beate, breeds and owns about 80 Welsh Cobs in Wales, and her younger sister runs an equestrian complex in Niederkrüchten, Germany.

“All my life I have been a working man – without ever having worked. And that is because working, for me, means pleasure. I only ever did what I enjoyed,” he says.

What seems impossible for many Germans – mixing work and pleasure – appears to be Mr Reipen’s philosophy.

It was on a holiday in Alaska where he first discovered what would later become the foundation of his career: iced coffee in a can.

When a fellow traveller offered him tasty iced coffee, he saw a market niche and decided to import the little cans to Germany.

He started selling them in Cologne and then negotiated with big food companies such as Nescafé and Coca Cola and finally established the Mr Brown brand in Germany.

Mr Reipen’s would describe his professional life as multi-faceted: he is a merchant, a farm-owner, in the equestrian business, a hotelier, an entrepreneur.

There are not only horses on the farm, but also cattle, from which he produces German-style meat and sausages in his own butchery.

The property also includes accommodation for tourists, who are welcome to bring their own horses when staying in one of the quiet cottages with view on the coastline and – on clear days – Mt Taranaki.

TV3 current affairs programme Campbell Live recently reported on Mr Reipen’s plans to give away the Mt Taranaki Mountain House, which he bought recently and renovated.

The impression was given Mr Reipen wanted to donate the alpine resort as a future holiday home to any family, but in fact his idea was to give it to a charity organisation.

“It is my wish to give it to the people of New Zealand, for charity. It should be something for everyone, the whole country,” he said.

He says he wants to give it to reduce the stress in his life, a decision influenced by heart problems he suffered earlier this year.

Organisations have to apply in writing and give reasons why they deserve the Mountain House.

Created with Admarket’s flickrSLiDR.

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is a graduate from Whitireia Journalism School, now working for a rock magazine in London.
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2 comments
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  1. Nice article. Germans have a long and often unknown history in NZ starting with adventurers and permanent settlement by Bohemians. They are now investing in the wine industry and the establishment at Elephant Hill by Cape Kidnappers is very modern. Perhaps you could follow up with this as your next article.

  2. Last year i went to German. I like it, very beautyfull place. Good job! THANKS! You guys do a great website, and have some great contents. Keep up the good work.
    best regards,

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