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Mahurangi Regatta 2014 to be graced by deputy mayor

by 18 Dec 2013Regatta 20140 comments

Rodney and Otamatea Times, 1901

Graced by a Legend: The incomparable scratch A-class Ranger close-reaching down-harbour in the 2013 Mahurangi Regatta, on her way to taking line honours, yet again. photographer Lyn Bergquist

It is Mahurangi Harbour’s only annual gathering, but it is sublime.

Fittingly, the Mahurangi Regatta is a celebration both for Aucklanders privileged to call the harbour home, full- or part- time, and of those who reside in less utterly idyllic parts of the region but regard the Mahurangi as their favourite place. As the 1901 inaugural edition of what was then titled the Rodney and Ōtamatea Times, Waitematā and Kaipara Gazette, extolled:

The ‘Heads’ is one of the most suitable places within so short a distance from Auckland for regatta purposes. It being within reach of the Auckland Yachtmen, who are certain to take advantage of the outing, and should the [Mahurangi Regatta] committee decide to make it an annual event, as indeed they have every encouragement to do.

The newspaper, nowadays more-handily titled the Rodney Times, had it right: The Mahurangi Regatta, particularly since its revival in 1977, is a thoroughly regional event. Despite that fact, Saturday 25 January 2013 will be the first time a representative of the region as a whole has graced the day. Already a Mahurangi enthusiast, Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse had planned to attend the 2013 regatta, only to be thwarted by an intractable calendar clash.

The Mahurangi Regatta is the singular opportunity for a regional audience to be addressed on the council–community collaboration to restore the health of the harbour’s catchment—work begun in 2004, with a $3‍ ‍million 5-year kickstart by the regional council. Of a regatta evening, a brief opportunity exists to address a crowd of a thousand or more while it eagerly awaits the race handicapper to calculate results of the day’s racing. One result will no doubt already be known, or be assumed—that the achingly beautiful Ranger was again the first A-class over the line—such is her prowess, she and the balance of the A-class ‘keelers’ are ineligible for the Mahurangi Cup, for classic wooden yachts pre-1955 design. The deputy mayor, if organisers time it right, will have the perfect opportunity to explain what ails the harbour, what has being done to address that, and what remains to be done, and how what remains to be done needs the support of Aucklanders—planting the 10‍ ‍million trees needed to protect the catchment’s eroded or eroding soils will need strong regional support, particularly during long-term plan deliberations. And then to kick off the prize giving with those non-dependent upon the handicapper, such as the John Cole Trophy, which is awarded for aesthetic contribution to the regatta.

Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse, 28 February 2013

Say What Everyone Else is Thinking: The Mahurangi Regatta, more specifically, the after‑match prize giving at Scotts Landing, presents the one brief annual opportunity for someone to say what everyone else is thinking—‘This must be Auckland’s best-kept secret—long may the Mahurangi Harbour continue to look this good.’ image dykiegirl

There was an ulterior motive in inviting the deputy mayor to the 2014 regatta: The 2016 Mahurangi Regatta. Auckland Anniversary Weekend 2016 is set to be celebrated as a major event, to mark the 50th summer of Wenderholm Regional Park—the first of a network of 26 regional parks, 25 acquired since the passing of the first regional governance legislation with teeth, 50 years ago this year. The concept being considered would involve each regional park hosting an event appropriate to that park. The obvious event for the Mahurangi Regional Park goes without saying, as does the headline event, to be held at Wenderholm: Opera. To do it justice, the long weekend of events celebrating 50 summers of regional parks will require the considerable skills and resources of Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development. And that leads to a further ulterior motive.

It has been suggested, including within the council-controlled events and economic development organisation, that Auckland Anniversary weekend should be treated as a major event annually; that the long weekend should be the time be in the region, rather than the reason for escaping it. The advantage, for those organisations and individuals who have shouldered the risk and responsibility of holding the Mahurangi Regatta, is that it would be recognised and supported as a regional event. Over the years, the event’s overheads have become increasingly unsustainable. Last year, Mahurangi Action paid out $2100 for portable toilets, public liability insurance and St John services. This summer, the group has asked Auckland Regional Parks to cover those costs. Expecting local groups to pay the cost of hosting Mahurangi Regional Park visitors is akin to expecting organisers of the Auckland Anniversary Regatta to take responsibility for the tens of thousands who crowd onto North Head and the other popular vantage points up and down, and outside of, the Waitematā Harbour.

Even if that support is forthcoming, the event faces a shortfall of $2000, having received $4000 from Rodney Local Board, rather than the $5000 received last year, or the $7500 requested, to cover aforementioned costs, plus the hire of the marquee, sound and lighting, and costs of the 18-piece swing band—the musicians perform for charity and the love of swing. The marquee and the Prohibition Big Band is what makes the Mahurangi Regatta prize-giving dance unique, and continues a rich regional heritage—it was during the swing era that the regatta lapsed. Other, more recent, genres could be introduced but the result would likely be less dancing and more drunkenness—a less family-friendly evening, and one at odds with regional park policy. Similarly, there are number of activities that could be run at Sullivans Bay and at Scotts Landing that would generate a good deal of coin for the organisers. But the determination of those who revived it, many of who had lived through the Great Depression, deserves to be respected: The Mahurangi Regatta should remain a good old-fashioned leave-your-wallet-at-home picnic regatta.

The gap between rich and poor has only widened since, and the shoreside regatta takes place in that epitome of egalitarian spaces, Auckland Regional Parks.

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