Roll on the regional parks rolling 50th celebrations
Auckland Council is planning to push the regional parks 50th boat out.
But rather than one grand event, or weekend, the celebrations will likely take the form of a season of events, rather like the way Warkworth’s 150th anniversary was celebrated.
For that calendar of events, the Mahurangi Regatta Ball had the honour of being the grand finale. And being held in January 2004, the regatta ball also had the distinction of being the only event held during the actual 150th year—all the other events were held a year early. Still, in that respect the organisers were in good company, such as when pretty much all of humanity celebrated the new millennium a year early, and when, more recently, the founding of Auckland was marked eight months ahead of the actual date the Union Jack was planted at Britomart Point.
The Mahurangi Magazine has long argued, and will continue to argue, for Auckland Anniversary weekend to be celebrated as a major event, every year. But first Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development, and more recently Auckland Council’s own events team, have concluded that the traditional exodus out of urban Auckland that weekend would count against the concept. This, the Mahurangi Magazine contends, is a mind-set that must be challenged. The days of mindless of fossil-fuel use are about to come to a gruelling and inglorious end. The battle to have the regional parks network recognise its obligation to reducing fossil-fuel dependency, however, appears to be unwinnable within the timespan appropriate to celebrating their 50th anniversary.
Fortunately, there are other causes that can potentially benefit from a rolling regional parks celebration. Firstly, the Mahurangi Regatta, for which the Mahurangi Regional Park is the essence of its charm, is an obvious candidate for branding and support as one of the events on the official calendar. The prize-giving dance provides the perfect platform for the right speaker, probably former Auckland Regional Council chairman, and current Auckland Council representative, Councillor Mike Lee, to salute the park’s ‘dreamers of the day’, provide a potted history of the Mahurangi and Te Muri acquisitions, and update the audience of progress with the Mahurangi Coastal Trail.
At least two separate events are called for at Wenderholm. The first could, and probably should, launch the whole rolling programme of events: a ceremonial reopening of the gates into Wenderholm Regional Park. The historically faithful month date for this would be Friday 18 December, but as that date fell on a Saturday in 1965, the event could also reasonably be held on the 19th. But because there would be no expectation that crowds of people would wish to attend, what would essentially be a photo opportunity—the starting gun for the rolling programme of 50th events in 2016—fidelity to 18 December should probably be maintained.
With the second Wenderholm event taking on something of a life of its own as a friends of regional parks jamboree, a weekend other than Auckland Anniversary weekend, when many potential attendees would be compromised by myriad competing events, and when there is already heavy demand for the camping ground space, and on Schischka Homestead, has been urged. The quiet weekends tend to be those that follow a long weekend, and a particularly quiet weekend can be anticipated following two long weekends in succession, such as that which will follow what, in 2016, will be the consecutive long weekends of Auckland Anniversary and Waitangi Day respectively. So while the prospect of three busy weekends in a row could be a total turnoff for the general public, the faithful are unlikely to fazed and will likely pounce on the opportunity to embrace that third weekend, 13–14 February, as a gathering those who eat, drink and sleep all things regional parks, and its suggested theme: ‘The next fifty years – linking the regional parks’.The proposed Mahurangi Coastal Trail has received the most enthusiastic reception imaginable from both Auckland Council’s parks, recreation and sport committee and the Rodney Local Board, and most people instantly recognise the sky-high amenity value of a trail that traverses a coastline not accessible by road. But regardless of how long it takes for the project to ultimately be supported and consented by Auckland Council, it provides the perfect real-world case study of how regional parks might better serve Aucklanders, over the next 50 years. The regional parks were conceived during a period of gung-ho motorway construction, in the 1950s, when it was reasonable to expect that park users, almost without exception, would access the parks by private car. Regional parks visionary Frederick Jones specifically wished to provide for the family car to be parked within a few feet of the preferred picnic site. But aside from now being incompatible with the imperative to drastically curtail the use of fossil fuels, the concept of driving into a park and perhaps walking around a little inside it and driving away again, is an impoverished way of using a park. Compare, for example, the satisfaction that could be had bussing to Waiwera, walking to Te Muri for a swim and lunch, then walking to Puhoi and pausing there for refreshment before boarding a bus back to the metropolis. This, of course, supposes that the reach of public transport will eventually be extended northward, in line with the council’s curiously incongruous determination to turn the rural town of Warkworth into a dormitory suburb.
The suggested jamboree at Wenderholm would provide a timely forum to re-evaluate how regional parks can best serve Aucklanders over the next 50 years. With little prospect of earlier levels of funding for regional parks being restored during Auckland Council’s current fiscal crisis, public-subscription projects such as the Mahurangi Coastal Trail that promise to better use existing acquisitions demand to be urgently explored and trialled. A Friday-evening-to-midday-Sunday gathering could be hosted for a song, with participants largely paying their own way. When Mahurangi Action organised the Mahurangi Regatta Ball as the grand finale of Warkworth’s 150th, it did so without a cent from the former Rodney District Council—even the professionals who erected the marquee donated their time. In addition, those strongly motivated to see the low-hanging fruit of regional parks access by public transport trialled with the Mahurangi Coastal Trail, would be invited to sign pledges to pay to have their names burned into planks of the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge.
Judge Arnold Turner’s achievement of raising a £1 million loan, negotiating for and purchasing Wenderholm, and opening that first coastal regional park to the public within a two-year period was, and remains, nothing short of breathtaking. To truly do credit to that accomplishment, the ribbon to the Judge Arnold Turner Footbridge, come 18 December, should be being cut. One way or another, proponents of the Mahurangi Coastal Trail, first proposed by the community three decades ago, have fallen short of delivering ultimate tribute on the anniversary of the opening of the gates to Wenderholm.
It is not too late, provided the Te Muri Regional Park concept plan process is expedited, for Auckland Council to be in a position to make a heroic announcement, possibly as the grand finale of the regional parks 50th calendar of events, later in 2016.
Mahurangi Coastal Trail as the Auckland Regional Parks 50th anniversary, legacy project!