Cashed-up New Zealanders, leaf blowers: The truth about Noosa

Sometimes it takes a TV show to put a place on the map. Sylvania Waters is a case in point; suddenly everyone was talking about living in a canal estate in ‘The Shire’. And in the 70s, there wasn’t a kid alive who watched Skippy, that didn’t want a tour of ‘Waratah Park’ in Terry Hills.
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Will The Circle do the same for Noosa?

The Circle is the brainchild of Felix Williamson, who also worked on Domain’s Avalon Now series. It’s a razor-sharp observational comedy, following the lives of two cosmopolitan couples from Melbourne and Sydney who have made the sea-change to Noosa.

But it’s The Circle’s fictional locals who steal the show, especially Felix Williamson as Lesley, the sexually ambiguous New Zealander, and his partner Tonni (Rebecca Gibney). Chris Hayward is brilliantly cast as Gordon, a bloke who is always armed with a leaf blower. While Richard Roxburgh is fabulously gauche as wealthy South African alpha-male, Julius Du Toit.

While Hibiscus Circle featured in the series may be a fictional street, there’s little doubt it’s based on the real-life Witta Circle, Noosa’s most exclusive address, and surrounded by waterfront views.

And while The Circle pokes fun at Noosa’s fitness fanatics, lurid sarongs, lack of nightlife and monoculture, what’s living in the Circle really like?

Most of the series was shot in the house of writer/director Felix Williamson’s mother-in-law, who lives in Witta Circle.

“I’m very familiar with the whole area,” Williamson says. “My parents have a home in Sunshine Beach, and I have a number of relatives living up there, including my brother Rory.”

Rory says a whole new market is emerging in Noosa, comprising 35 to 45-year-olds who work as web designers and copywriters from Sydney and Melbourne who have cashed in their city apartments to work remotely.

When it comes to Witta Circle, he says it’s well out of his price range, but would make for an idyllic lifestyle. “There’s little jetties with boats, and it’s close to Hastings Street. It’s pretty nice,” he says. “A lot of the owners are cashed-up New Zealanders, like the character Felix portrays in the show … he hit the nail on the head there.”

One of the other periphery characters in the show is Gordon, a neighbour and avid user of the leaf blower. Turns out you’ll find plenty of types like Gordon in Noosa, too.

“I drove around Witta Circle last week and spotted a bloke with a leaf blower. He looked exactly like the one in the series,” said a Noosa agent who didn’t want to be named.

And he’s not the only one. Veronica and Peter moved into Witta Circle in 1970s. For the past 43 years, the Circle has been home. “We love it here and wouldn’t want to live anywhere else,” says Veronica.

“Do we have a leaf blower? Yes, and so does the lady next door,” admits Veronica.

Witta Circle comprises 16 internal blocks, and 30 blocks on the water. The dry blocks are around 900 square metres, while the waterfronts are 600 square metres.

Veronica and Peter purchased two dry -internal- blocks there for $10,000 each in 1974. Nowadays a dry block would fetch upwards of $2.3 million.

The property price record for Noosa Sound was set in Witta Circle, with No. 25 going for a tidy $8.25 million in 2009. Waterfront land alone is just a snip under the $4 million mark.

Their son, 42-year-old PJ, a Noosa real estate agent, said Witta Circle was a tight-knit community as he was growing up.

“There were about 30 kids in Witta Circle and we’d play together after school, riding our pushbikes to the end of Noosa Sound, having tinny races around the island, diving off the bridge, or swimming across the estuary to swing on the Tarzan ropes on the other side.”

“Everyone knew each other back then. Now it’s like one big holiday resort and a lot of the houses are empty, or rented during the holidays. My parents are two of the only original residents left there.

“The only problem now is that on weekends it’s a car park. People drive over to Witta Circle to park and go to the beach. Luckily, dad doesn’t mind, because he rides a motor scooter everywhere.”

Veronica says the biggest change she has seen over the years is the loss of permanent residents. “I like the idea of having a neighbour where I can pop in and have a cup of tea.”

The advent of holiday homes on Witta Circle has seen some impressive builds. Architects such as Ken Robertson, Tim Ditchfield, Noel Robinson, and Kidd and Co have all created a distinctive “Noosa style” on the island.

Andrew Le is an architect with Brisbane-based Red Door Architecture. One of his more recent projects is a home for the Daffy family in Witta Circle. The five-bedroom concrete and glass house looks out over the estuary to a protected coastal forest. Most of the spaces in the home, including the enormous bathrooms, take full advantage of the water views.

The home’s owner, Troy Duffy, says he used to holiday in Noosa as a teenager, and often wondered who could afford the lovely big houses on Witta Circle. After establishing a successful property development company in Brisbane, Duffy had his answer. He could.

“I was lucky enough to fulfil a dream and buy a block of land on Witta Circle four years ago,” he says. “We love the new house. It’s basically our sanctuary. I drive up with the wife and kids every school holidays; it’s about 90 minutes on the freeway.”

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