Regional parks 50th celebrations perspective unapologetically regatta-centric
Submission to Auckland Council
Appropriately, Friends of Regional Parks’ submission has a largely regional-parks-centric viewpoint.
But when putting its oar in, Mahurangi Action’s view is unabashedly regatta-centric. It is hoped, however, that Auckland Council will see the respective positions of the organisations, on the proposed Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary celebrations, as being entirely complementary. Most importantly perhaps, Mahurangi Action strongly supports Friends of Regional Parks’ contention that those celebrations should be focussed on Auckland Anniversary weekend 2016, being the 50th summer Aucklanders will have enjoyed access to Wenderholm.
For many who annually attend the Mahurangi and Auckland regattas, Auckland Anniversary weekend is bigger than Christmas. It is a weekend in which Mahurangi Harbour is transformed from a paradisiacal backwater, into a maritime spectacle, featuring what is believed to be the largest one-day gathering of classic wooden boats, supported by a host contemporary craft and thousands of shoreside spectators. Aucklanders living locally, in the city, and in other parts of the region, and visitors from farther afield and internationally, join together for a glorious celebration of sail, and of what for many is their favourite Auckland place—Mahurangi.
Since 1977, when Mahurangi Action, as Friends of the Mahurangi, revived the event—it had lapsed during World War II—the event has grown year after year, beautifully bookending Auckland Anniversary weekend, with the regatta on the Monday anniversary day.
A huge part of the popularity of the Mahurangi Regatta is due the fact that its shoreside events take place in one of Auckland’s most-loved regional parks—Mahurangi Regional Park. A singular Mahurangi Regatta experience is of those park visitors who, at Sullivans Bay, happen upon the regatta and are drawn into it, with their children joyously participating as heat after heat of evergreen contests such as three-legged, sack, and spud-and-spoon races play out, and team up to passionately create imaginative sand sculptures. Parents of such accidental regatta participants invariably seek out the organisers to praise the inclusive nature of the day—a good old-fashioned leave-your-wallet-at-home picnic regatta.
The after-match function takes place at Scotts Landing, with an 18-piece swing band playing in a marquee beside the historic Scott Homestead. The event is free to locals and regatta-goers, and, again, to accidental participants, as is appropriate in a regional park on a long weekend. The 1940s big band music, and the 1800s ambience of the Scott Homestead setting, make for a decorous and partner-and-family-friendly evening enjoyed by all ages. A familiar lament from visiting yacht and boating clubs is the absence of an equivalent event, following the Auckland Anniversary Regatta.
Mahurangi Action’s 37-year regatta experience informs its belief that Auckland Anniversary weekend’s destiny is as an annual major event, made up of iconic events such as the Mahurangi and Auckland Anniversary regattas, with each of the regional parks celebrating in its preferred way, and with something world-class and special to entice expat New Zealanders to visit home on that particular weekend, that reunions of families and friends, and weddings and anniversaries, might be celebrated while many are already forgathered.
In proposing Auckland Anniversary weekend as an annual major event, Mahurangi Action is not seeking financial support for the Mahurangi Regatta beyond the level currently enjoyed from regional and local board event funds, but believes that if the long weekend was to be treated by Auckland Council annually as a major event, from next year’s 175th anniversary celebrations onward, all the complementary events would greatly benefit, particularly of course from the shared promotion that would be possible. Other appropriate existing annual events might be encouraged to migrate to the long weekend, as did the Mahurangi Regatta itself, in 1979. The organisers of one-off events in the region would have an incentive to choose Auckland Anniversary weekend, to take advantage of the free publicity on offer. Likewise, complementary international events could be timed for anniversary weekend. For example, singer–songwriters with a special place in the heart of sailors, such as Jimmy Buffett, Glenn Shorrock and Stephen Stills might be induced to time a New Zealand tour with an Auckland Anniversary Day, and for the city to negotiate for a free live or large-screen performance to take place as part of a sprawling Sullivans-Bay-style ‘regatta picnic’ on Queens Wharf, with live regatta backdrop.
Such an Auckland Anniversary weekend would also be a dramatic time to champion the regional parks, for example when the proposed Mahurangi Coastal Trail is primed for official opening.
As with Friends of Regional Parks, regardless of how and when Auckland Council determines the regional parks 50th anniversary is to be commemorated, Mahurangi Action pledges to help push the boat out.