Auckland’s 175th and regional parks’ 50th anniversaries and Anniversary weekend as an annual major event
The decision as to which year to celebrate is slightly easier for the 50th anniversary.
Auckland’s 175th anniversary is to be celebrated on Auckland Anniversary weekend 2015, eight months ahead of the day Captain William Hobson planted the Union Jack at Britomart Point, naming the settlement he thus founded Auckland.
Aucklanders, however, shouldn’t quibble about their anniversary being early, or about their anniversary date not being on their anniversary date—Hobson did all subsequent Aucklanders a huge service by decreeing that the town celebrate on, or near, the anniversary of his arrival in the Bay of Islands as lieutenant governor, on 29 January 1840. The long weekend is often better-favoured by the weather than the Christmas-centric holiday and few would wish to swap it for a weekend handy to 20 September.
Similarly, Aucklanders will surely happily celebrate the 50th anniversary of their beloved regional parks at the end of January, regardless of the date not being precise. If the celebration is combined with Auckland’s 175th, it will be a mere nine weeks ahead of the actual purchase date of the first park: Wenderholm. Alternatively, if the celebration was held the following Auckland Anniversary weekend, 2016, it would be the month following the opening of Wenderholm, in December 1965. In any event, December would be a horrid time for such a celebration to be held, given the un-Christian pressure people are put under, or put themselves under, during the pre-Christmas buildup.
Since May 2013, the Mahurangi Magazine has been advocating for Auckland Anniversary weekend 2016 as the best time to celebrate the 50th summer of Auckland’s regional parks. One reason for favouring the year-later date was to improve the possibility that the weekend would be handled as a major event by Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, for which a healthy lead-time would have helped. The bigger picture was the belief that Auckland Anniversary weekend, annually, should function as a major event; that it should be the time international visitors flock to the region because so many world-class complementary events are taking place. However, if that concept had been going to get traction, surely 2015 was the year it was going to happen. Instead, while Auckland’s 175th is being considered a major event, it is not an Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development one, but rather is being organised directly by Auckland Council, possibly partly because it is being seen as having local rather than international appeal, despite the planned spectacle of five ocean-going double-hulled waka, from Hawai’i, Fiji, the Cook Islands, and Aotearoa, sailing on the Waitematā.
Be that as it may, given that Auckland’s 175th is to be a major anniversary weekend celebration in 2015, simultaneously celebrating the regional parks’ 50th, Friends of Regional Parks has been advised, could well raise the profile of both events. The obvious downside, including for regional parks staff, is that the 175th celebration is just 10 weekends away—not insurmountable, but certainly character-building. Financially, combined anniversaries would share some costs, particularly publicity, although any expenditure regional parks anniversary expenditure will presumably have to come out of existing budgets, not that next year’s are likely to have any fat.
The Mahurangi Magazine’s original concept imagined each regional park passionately celebrating the network’s 50th anniversary, and in the way each park’s volunteers and users knew best, but with them being able to push their boats out that much farther, with the help of the city’s tourism, events and economic development organisation’s considerable financial and intellectual muscle. The magazine, of course, was seeing the celebration from the perspective of the Mahurangi Regatta, and how beneficial it could be to the harbour community’s natural annual event, both in 2016 and thereafter, if Auckland Anniversary weekend was to become the major event it is destined to become. It is not too late for that concept to take off, with Auckland Anniversary weekend 2015 being the launching point, but it would need to be quickly picked up by some seriously heavy hitters.
Meantime, some of the regional parks senior rangers have been wondering if a more modest season of events might be appropriate, and more manageable from current funding and resources. This was the approach adopted by the Warkworth community for its hugely successful rolling 150th anniversary. Nor did the regatta ball, organised by Mahurangi Action as the grand finale of the season of events, cost Rodney District Council a cent, demonstrating how much can be achieved when community and council work together, to paraphrase Councillor Penny Webster’s comments following the combined Mahurangi Action Plan 10th and Mahurangi Action 40th anniversaries celebration, on 2 November. Done right, Auckland could launch its anniversary-as-an-annual-major-event strategy, without spending anything not already budgeted.
Regardless of the strategy adopted by Auckland Council, the Mahurangi Magazine, and doubtless Friends of Regional Parks and Mahurangi Action, will wholeheartedly put shoulders to the wheel to ensure that the priceless 50-year legacy of Frederick William Osborn Jones and Arnold Turner, and other souls sufficiently courageous to wear their dreams on their sleeves, is honoured and celebrated to best of the region’s ability.
Jumping the gun The Mahurangi Regatta Ball, being the last event in Warkworth’s 150th anniversary, held a year early, was the closest the actual founding date of the town. It seems to be human nature to jump the gun in this way, the millennium celebrations being the once-in-a-1000-year opportunity to be exactly 12 months premature.