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Volunteers called for busman’s holiday

by 10 Jan 2010Regatta 20100 comments

Scotts Landing Walkway

Ball Boardwalk: Informed by this image, and the need to get ball goers from the bus to the marquee beside Scott Homestead, the then district council mayor, John Law, backed the building of a boardwalk. photographer Frederick George Radcliffe

The bar was set high for the 2004 regatta ball.

As the head ranger said at the time:

We wouldn’t even be having this conversation, if it wasn’t for the historic importance of Warkworth’s 150th celebrations.

Given Scott Homestead’s historic role as the provider of Mahurangi Regatta hospitality, the regional park’s management readily accepted that the marquee ball to mark the end of the sesquicentennial celebrations should be held there. But with the majority of guests set to arrive by motorcar, which was barely in use in the regatta’s heyday, parking was the stumbling block.

The solution was for ball organiser, Mahurangi Actionestablished 1974 as Friends of the Mahurangi, to lay on a bus service.

Former Mahurangi West resident and busman Rob Arnett kindly agreed drive the rig, generously provided by his erstwhile employer, Gubbs Motors. The oldest bus in the fleet was requested so as to be closest to the ball’s 1940s theme—reflecting the era in which the Mahurangi Regatta prize-giving and dance had ended, due to the distractions of World War Two. The venerable vehicle was also the longest and least manoeuvrable, which proved to be a trial for the busman as various self-absorbed souls, insisting that their car absolutely had to be accommodated at the landing. A late-model Mercedes parked hard against the boat ramp came closer than its owner will ever know to being sacrificed in the cause of public transport. Other cars had to be bodily dragged from their desperately opportunistic parks in the middle of the manoeuvring area.

Far from feeling ill-used, Rob—resplendent in period busman’s hat—enormously enjoyed the ball, partly on account of his partner’s love and proficiency for 1940s-style dirty dancing. The bus service, albeit in a less flamboyant form, was maintained for the 2005 and 2006 prize-giving and dances, before succumbing to impecuniosity—it is neither desirable nor permissible for an entrance fee to be collected, making financing of the event perennially challenging.

The regional park’s management has been enormously supportive of the Mahurangi Regatta and tolerant of its organisers’ occasional lapses. But the time has come for the bus service—provided by hired 11-seaters—to be reinstated.

The last thing Mahurangi Action and the Mahurangi Cruising Club want, however, is for this call for volunteers, which includes the role of bus driver, to discourage Rob Arnett—Rob has recently returned to Aotearoa from his birthplace of England—from attending the dance.

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