The Toothbrush Fence, Te Pahu
The Toothbrush Fence in Te Pahu, New Zealand is exactly what the name suggests, a fence adorned with toothbrushes (and a few dish brushes). While the Toothbrush Fence was name checked in TV’s “Flight of the Conchords” as boasting over 50 toothbrushes, they now number in the hundreds. In all their variety they hang from the fence, their plastic still vividly coloured although their bristles are largely worn down from long service. Children’s toothbrushes stand out as makers have gone all out to make oral hygiene attractive to the young with Narnia, Lord of the Rings films and Looney Tunes all represented.
The Toothbrush Fence is located on a farm on a quiet rural road and if you weren’t looking for it, it seems unlikely you would stumble across it. We saw no other people while visiting but the bull in the nearest field stared at us, and a goat tethered to a fence across the street also ambled into the road to greet us.
A sign under the farm’s two letterboxes instructs “DIY (wire in bucket)”. The fence goer can hold their toothbrush in a clamp and drill a hole in the brush before helping themselves to a pre-cut piece of wire to attach their brush. If you need amusement while your friends drill their toothbrushes, the post boxes have games attached to the fence to play, in the form of a Rubik’s Cube and a peg based game of uncertain rules. The fence also displays a painting of Betty in her 1950s blue sedan visiting the Toothbrush Fence. The identity of Betty is unknown but her image also adorns one of the village’s other attractions – the Helen Clark Celebrity Bus Shelter.
Former NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark is a native of Te Pahu. The Celebrity Bus Shelter is wooden, green and houses paintings including one of the then PM in the bus shelter and the depiction of Betty’s visit. The Helen Clark “self portrait” may be a reference to “Paintergate” where as PM she signed a painting which was, alas, not her own work.
Te Pahu also boasts an information centre in a shed, which a sign informs you is closed 24 hours a day. Peering through the window it has a "You are here!" map, a Te Pahu School t-shirt, a handful of leaflets and a Hamilton Underground Map. Hamilton (the nearest metropolitan centre) has yet to build a subway system, although it does boast a tribute in statue form of its own celebrity, Richard O’Brien as Riff Raff from the Rocky Horror Picture Show.
The creator of all the Te Pahu attractions is the self proclaimed Laird of Hamilton, Graeme Cairns. His inspiration for the Toothbrush Fence apparently came from the now sadly bare Cardrona Bra Fence. Cairns is best known for his attempts to evade the census by various methods including claiming to be possessed, completing the form in Latin and nailing it to a tree, ascending to international air space in a hot air balloon and being cryogenically frozen and declared legally dead by a “Dr Qualified”.
While his Te Pahu website claims “Te Pahu is a great place to live, and the less people who know that the better” the closed Information Centre is intended to frustrate any potential visitors, it’s well worth making the effort to stop in Te Pahu if you are ever nearby.