By Stan Stewart.
I didn’t want to come to Whitianga. However, the most amazing and complicated circumstances conspired to give me no choice. One of the things that discouraged me was the previous impression I had gained about Whitianga. I summed it up by saying Whitianga was about beer, barbeques and rock and roll. Whilst I am not against any of these, truthfully it wasn’t my scene. Another thing that worried me was rising sea levels. In short, my guess was that Whitianga was going to be washed away.
Now I’m glad I came to Whitianga. I’ve found many things, people mostly, I didn’t expect to find.
As was predicted Buffalo Beach is not the broad stretch of sand it used to be. On many occasions I have seen the waves cresting the rocks and the huge concrete filled bags. I had heard dire predictions about the negative effects of the Waterways. However, it is my impression that the Waterways act as a kind of relief valve taking the sting out of incoming tides. Old timers tell me they have seen more water in the main town in previous years than was on the roads in the worst of this year’s weather.
But now I am thinking that sand, surf and scenery may not be the best thing that Whitianga has to offer. For seventeen years we lived in one of Auckland’s high-end, desirable suburbs. I wrote a little ditty about it. It to the tune ‘Home on the Range’.
Give me a home
Where the Jags and Mercs roam
And high fashion is the dress of the day
And seldom is heard an encouraging word
But, you don’t know the neighbours anyway
Being part of the Informer team, I have to read every issue and here’s one thing I have noticed. Mayor Len gets a mention in almost every Issue. Clearly a lot of people have suggestions as to how he could do a better job. According to my understanding the job of the mayor in this diverse district must be a very difficult task at the best of times. And then add to the normal cut and thrust the storms, the slips, the catastrophic subsidence’s it must be unbelievably demanding. Now I have never met him, but I note that he plays an instrument in a Dixie Land Band. In my mind any Mayor who plays in a Dixie Land band can’t be all bad.
Just in case Mayor Len is looking for glib suggestions as to how he could improve his popularity, (I don’t think he is) I’ve come up with a three-point plan which I suspect will please his critics.
1. Take all the reports on everything and stack them in a basement and lock the door. On the door have a big sign which says “Danger – Keep Out – No Entry.
2. Fire all the consultants.
3. Have a ‘Meet Your Mayor’ for one hour every Friday morning in the Council Offices. Invite 100 from the areas – e.g. Whitianga, Coromandel etc. on a rotation basis. Give everyone who attends a $50 note. Provide sausage rolls and tomato sauce and scones and cream. At the end of each event have everyone sing ‘For he’s a jolly good Mayor’. For this song segment I suggest Mayor Len stands on a small platform or a stool and wears a funny hat.
(If Tim Shadbolt had followed this plan he would still be mayor of Invercargill.)
Recently at a civic function a lively lady struck up a conversation with me. She knew I had only recently arrived. “I love living in this town” she said. She has been a resident of Whitianga for six years. “Do you know what the best thing is” she asked. Answering her own question she said, “It’s the people”. She went on to tell me of living her life in one of Auckland’s prestige suburbs. It sounded rather like my experience. “She said “The people have been so welcoming. I have made so many friends and there is so much to do here.” She wasn’t talking about beaches, ocean views or fishing, she was talking about a welcoming community.
My experience precisely. This is a special town and district. People, many of them older, have come here hoping to build a new life. And they have. But the beach and boats have not been the core components for this new life. It has been people, neighbours, club members, coffee shops and bars. They all share a genuine sense of welcome.
In conclusion here’s my version of a 17th century nursery rhyme which was part of my pre-school life.
Rain rain, go away
Now’s the time to meet and play
Whiti wants sunshine today
So many friends to meet.