Wednesday, 25 November 2020


Peter and Rhonda Hawley - unselfish dedication to the community

At “community drinks” on Friday, 9 October, the people of Hahei formally farewelled Peter and Rhonda Hawley, who will be moving to Havelock North after Labour Weekend, and thanked them for 20 years of unselfish dedication to the local community and the wider Coromandel area.

Peter and Rhonda’s love affair with Hahei started way back in 1968 when Peter was working as a surveyor for a large Auckland-based company. “I was originally assigned to survey a new subdivision being established in Dawn Avenue, which eventually led to the design and surveying of a 60-lot subdivision along Grange Road,” he says. “In those days, Grange Road was a metal road provided by the Crown to the Cathedral Cove Reserve. At the time the subdivision happened, the road was widened and sealed.”

While working for long periods in Hahei, home-away-from-home became a cosy cottage owned by Vaughan Harsant, a member of one of the area’s first settler families. “The cottage was initially part of the radar station at Hot Water Beach during World War II,” says Peter. “After the war, Vaughan had it cut into pieces and dragged it on a sledge to Hahei where it was rebuilt and used as his farm house for many years. Rhonda and I loved the cottage and its location so much that we purchased it in 1969. When we decided to move to Hahei on a permanent basis in 2000, the cottage was relocated to the hill as you come into Hahei and we built a new family home in its place.”

Since they started to call Hahei home, Peter and Rhonda have made it a priority to help out in the local community as much as they could.  “Everything we did was voluntary, but it was a great way to meet new people and become involved in causes and projects that made a difference to locals and visitors alike,” says Peter.

Some of the groups and committees Peter was involved in over the years include the Hahei Association (now known as the Hahei Residents and Ratepayers Association), the Hahei Water Supply Association and the Coromandel Coastal Walkways Society, which meant working with the late Ian Hopper on projects around Pauanui, Whitianga, Cooks Beach, Opito Bay and Matarangi. To that can be added 10 years with St John as a first responder, a trustee of the Kotare Reserve Memorial Garden Hahei Trust and being the only Justice of the Peace in Hahei.

Rhonda was a member of the Hahei Community Centre committee for many years, which resulted in Peter and Rhonda developing and maintaining an email database of Hahei residents and property owners. “There were almost 300 people on our database and they always got a reminder once per month of the upcoming community drinks at the Community Centre,” says Peter.

In addition to his involvement in the Coastal Walkways Society, Peter served the wider Coromandel as a district councillor of the New Zealand Automobile Association (NZAA). His involvement in the NZAA began in the mid-1990s and continued up until his recent decision to step aside. “The NZAA is the voice of the motoring public,” says Peter. “They are a trusted organisation and have the ear of the politicians, so we do our best to push for suggested roading improvements and changes in the Bay of Plenty region, which includes the Coromandel. In general, our roads are far from ideal on the Peninsula, but we keep beating the drum for ongoing improvements which hopefully will be answered on a more frequent basis. One win we did get not too long ago was the introduction of passing bays on hills such as the Kopu-Hikau and around Tairua, which I consider to be a major benefit for both locals and holiday makers. Drivers now need to be educated to pull over and give way before pulling out.”     

As a St John first responder, Peter has also seen the benefits of the ongoing safety features being fitted to motor vehicles. “It’s something else the NZAA campaign for very vigorously,” he says.
“While a motor vehicle can look a complete wreck after an accident, often occupants have walked away with no major or lasting injuries thanks to the deployment of airbags.”  

Peter says he and Rhonda decided to move to a retirement village in Hawkes Bay to be closer to family. “While it will be very sad to move away from an area that has provided us for two decades with some fantastic memories and long-lasting friendships, we are both looking forward to the next chapter in our lives,” he says.

Pictured: Peter Hawley (on the right) with Roy McDonald and Phil Costello, who served with him on the committee of the Hahei Water Supply Association, during the Hahei community drinks on Friday, 9 October.


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