Sunday, 26 May 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

John North on his 15 years of community service in Hahei

Well-known Hahei local, John North, stepped down from the Hahei Residents and Ratepayers Association (HRRA) after the association’s AGM on Saturday last week.

John joined the HRRA 15 years ago, when he and his wife, Tina, retired to Hahei in 2004. They’ve owned property in the village since 1978.

John used to be involved in the dairy and packaging industries during his working life and decided to become a part of the HRRA so he could give back to the local community.

John was seconded to facilitate the Hahei Community Plan in 2004, where he recognized two major issues that needed to be addressed. One was the impact tourism was having on parking in Hahei and the other was the water quality of Wigmore Stream. “The problems with Wigmore Stream were a symptom of the far larger issue that is the treatment of wastewater in the village,” says John.

In 2006, John was elected as the chairman of the HRRA. He immediately started to work on a trial park and ride system for Hahei Village. “There was limited support from Thames-Coromandel District Council at the time, but I was fortunate to secure some funding from Waikato Regional Council and a paddock at the village entrance where people could park,” says John.

With homemade signs directing visitors where to park, the trail ran from 2008 to 2009 and was an overwhelming success. After the trial period, the park and ride continued and now, 10 years later, it’s a successful commercial venture, operating from a carpark owned by TCDC.

John also set to work on the treatment of wastewater in Hahei. He worked with TCDC to install a trial filtration plant, convincing them to keep the plant operating until a better solution could be put in place.

Another major project John was involved in was TCDCs new District Plan. John, along with a group of other Hahei residents and ratepayers, were concerned about future development in and around the village without sufficient infrastructure to support the development. They advocated for a moratorium on all development activities until such time as Hahei’s infrastructure concerns have been properly addressed.

“Good progress has certainly been made recently,” says John. “In addition to the construction of the council-owned carpark at the Hahei Village entrance, the Cathedral Cove carpark at the top of Grange Road has become a drop off zone only during peak times of the year, with a pay and display system operating the rest of the time. Further improvements will be funded through the Tourism Infrastructure Fund, including development of all-weather walkways to encourage visitors to walk through the village.”

It’s pleasing to see that everybody now seems accept that you can’t have the benefits of tourism without adequate infrastructure.

 “The next big issue facing Hahei is the supply of water and the treatment of waste water. Current residents and ratepayers owe it to future generations to implement sensible changes now.”

John also says the Department of Conservation will at some point have to address the number of visitors to Cathedral Cove, as the number cannot increase unchecked. “Once a niche destination, Cathedral Cove is now a commodity destination and is at the moment not providing the experience to tourists that New Zealanders would like them to have,” he says.

John never shied away from leading by example and for 10 years volunteered at the park and ride. His last day was last Saturday, after the HRRA AGM.

In addition to his involvement in the HRRA, John and his wife were involved with the Hahei library since their permanent arrival in Hahei. They’ve also assisted for many years with the annual Hahei Market Day fundraiser for the library and several other local causes.

“New Zealand is so very dependent on volunteers and I  encourage everyone to consider how they can assist their local communities,” says John. It’s very rewarding to know your contribution can make a difference.”

Pictured: John North volunteered on Saturday last week for the last time at the park and rider in Hahei.

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