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He was a good catch

From a spearfisherman in Wellington to a rod and reel fisherman in Whitianga, then Secretary and committee member of the Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club (MBGFC) for 22 years and President for 10 years. That’s the briefest summary of John Neighbour’s path regarding fishing and his gift with administration and numbers.

He came from Wellington to live in Whitianga in 1977 to teach mathematics at Mercury Bay Area School . “I was a spearfisherman. I wasn’t a rod and reel fisherman. Wellington a very good place for spear fishing. There’s lots of current and so lots of fish life. I got into it as soon as I finished school. I still do a little bit here around the islands.”

The Informer asked John how he got involved in the MBGFC.

“I did a bit of fishing on other people’s boats and gradually got interested in joining the fishing club which I did in 1989. Becoming Secretary, well, that was not gradual at all. I went to the 1990 AGM when three guys press ganged me into becoming the Club Secretary. Those three are well known in Whitianga - Zap, Spida and Fuss; they are the cause of the last 32 years of work that I have done,” says John, but with a big smile.

I went to the AGM little thinking I would be nominated as Secretary, and the rest is history.

I have been on the committee for 32 years, last ten of which I have been President.

Being catch recorder means keeping track of all the numbers. When a fish is caught, the details are written on a catch card. Fish record keeping is painstaking in all its forms. Detail is required - size, weight, what was caught, when, where, how and who caught it. I am a mathematician and therefore into figures and numbers. It goes hand in hand with fish record keeping. John has done this as a volunteer, but it’s just a part of what he does. The year book he is pictured holding, has been John’s annual project, a compilation of the life of the club each year and the tournaments with all the figures and reports around catches. This is printed through obtaining sponsorship.

John is still teaching and on the day of this interview, he had come from relief teaching at MBAS. He has combined his love of maths at the school with his love of rugby. He took the school’s First XV to Rockhampton in 1990. John is quick to say, “We beat Rockhampton Grammar School on their home ground. Mind you, we beat them only by one point; they underestimated us.”

John coached the First XV for 17 years and 300 games. He took the team on four overseas tours, to Canada, Queensland, Rarotonga, and HongKong. “The Canadian one was the highlight,” John adds.

“The Club runs a number of tournaments a year. In the ten years I have been President. I have convened two of these events - the Tristram Marine Open which is the eight-day tournament in February, sponsored by Lance and Bronwyn Fink. (I have put feelers out for a new naming rights sponsor) and the Junior Tournament in April.

For John, the highlight as President has been seeing the club grow and becoming more successful, but never losing the aspect of sustaining a fun atmosphere. “Our Thursday nights here are such fun - raffles, “chuck a chook” (the idea came from Australia ). We have six rotisserie chooks. They are triple bagged; when a member’s number is drawn, the chook is chucked at them. Sometimes the bag bursts and there is a lot of fatty chook everywhere.” I feel good that our family are all involved in fishing and at the club. My wife, Margaret, held a World Record for many years and my eldest granddaughter, Tiana, is the senior bar person for the club. She has a degree in psychology and criminology, and one day will join the police force but for now, she is an avid fisher-person and helps the club with social media. Her sister Zoe, also on the bar staff, is keen on fishing and diving.

John - Weighty Matters: “The yearbook has a centre fold where you can see a grid map with the numbers of fish that are caught each year. You would find they haven’t decreased at all. The amount of fish taken out of the sea by recreational anglers is very small indeed. As soon as you make a marine reserve anywhere, it decreases the pressure in that particular zone, but it increases the pressure everywhere else. DOC (Department of Conservation) tend to look for the best areas for fishing to make a reserve, but it displaces the fishing population into hammering the other areas. There is no scientific evidence in anything I have read that marine reserves enhance fish life overall. The marine reserve matter has become political more than environmental.” John adds, “Waikato Regional Council, that’s a fight that we cannot let them win.”

75 years of the Game Fishing Club: John is very proud of the club’s history. “Through the great Depression and then through the years of World War Two, this club went into recess. It was reformed in 1947 as the Mercury Bay Game Fishing Club. Sunday 25 September is the 75th birthday of the club and we ar e having a dinner to celebrate.” On Saturday night, 10 September, the Club’s most prestigious trophy, the Hooper Trophy, was presented to the club’s Champion Angler, Jason Sherriff. He was the angler with the most points for the season.

“The Game Fishing Club brings a lot of residents to this town. Many people come because of the fishing opportunities and this club is the focal point of that.

“I have travelled a lot; all over the world and as far as I am concerned, this town and the people in it, make it the best lace to live in the world. That’s why I am here.” John comments on all the spare time he might have, “I will come here less for administration reasons but I’ll still be here socially and go fishing.” He adds with a grin, “And still diving; my family went out on the boat on Father’s Day and my son jumped in and speared three fish out at Great Mercury Island.”

“This town and the people in it, make it the best place to live in the world.”

Caption : John Neighbours


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