World-famous weekends in Warkworth
Weekend number one, would be the all-important, we’ve-only-got-one-shot-at-this, World-Famous Weekend in Warkworth.
Ideally, the inaugural weekend would feature three world-famous names. Say, Angela Lansbury, Sir Bob Geldof, and, for the Sunday, Richard Dawkins—the world-famous atheist. While this line-up may appear to be totally unachievably preposterous, the appearance of these celebrities would not require Air New Zealand and the Hilton to stump up with air travel and accommodation. These famous folk could appear courtesy of the zero-carbon option of fibre-optic cable.
Not that Air New Zealand and the Hilton wouldn’t be hit up for something. Air New Zealand’s chief executive officer, for example, might give the preceding Wednesday Evening in Warkworth town-hall talk, on virtual tourism. And pick up the tab for the audiovisual equipment for that night and for the weekend. Rather than the Hilton however, Bridge House would help out with Christopher Luxon’s accommodation.
Air New Zealand owes the Mahurangi, or in particular, owed John Timmins, the publisher of the Mahurangi Magazine, until his untimely death in 2012. Before being viscously assaulted and left for dead 12 years earlier, commercial barrister John Timmins had been Air New Zealand’s fix-it man.
Angela Lansbury is friend of J Barry Ferguson, a florist and events planner for the rich and famous—not least of all David Rockefeller—who retired to the Mahurangi West from Oyster Bay, New York, in 2003. The Murder She Wrote principal stayed with Barry there, in his gracious home overlooking the harbourscape. Lansbury, at age 92, not only plays Aunt March in the 2018-released episodes of pbs’s Little Women but her portrayal is regarded as one of the television film’s highpoints.
Sir Bob Geldof has a Mahurangi connection, not that he knows yet. Sir Bob hails from the same tiny County Dublin coastal town of Dún Laoghaire that the patriarch of a family featured in Jade River: A History of the Mahurangi was born. William Benjamin Jackson’s headstone in the urupā at Rewiti, bears his birthplace by its former, British name—Kingstown. A great-great-grandson, after thwacking a printout of his whakapapa on a Dún Laoghaire bar, found it impossible to pay for a round for the remainder of the evening.
The suggestion of Richard Dawkins for the sabbath is two-fold. The furore over Mayor Phil Goff decreeing that a couple of minor Canadian arch-racists could not speak in Auckland Council venues has exposed how ill-prepared New Zealanders are to protect the sanctity of free speech, in the Voltairean – Evelyn Beatrice Hall spirit of:
I wholly disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.
Richard Dawkins frs frsl—whose towering reputation was already well established by his work to reveal the gene-centred basis of evolution—is a self-confessed enthusiast for Aotearoa, particularly in the aftermath of the United Kingdom’s gratuitously self-harming decision to leave the European Union. On the whim of little more than of 37% of registered voters, the United Kingdom and European Union could lose £224.5 billion of economic output by 2020. On the strength of a 3.78 percentage point majority, the British government is risking economic Armageddon, globally. The British could learn a little restraint from New Zealanders, given their vote of 81.5% to 18.5% to reduce the members of Parliament from 120 to 99 that their government ignored with impunity. Before the United Kingdom comes to its senses and holds a second referendum, Dr Dawkins should indeed be invited to emigrate to:
Mahurangi Action’s objective since at least 2012 has been to see a regular forum where wisdom from beyond New Zealand’s shores could be consulted via live video link. Back then the fate of the Warkworth Town Hall was still being decided, but now that the Mahurangi has an entirely edifying venue, the vision can be readily be realised. A $15 000 grant just received from the Department of Internal Affairs for installed audiovisual equipment is a very useful start towards raising the about $115 000 required to set the town hall up to be self-funding from here on in. The fundraising strategy sketched out is for a third of the balance to be obtained from other charitable sources, a third from businesses and philanthropists, and the final third from the inaugural World-Famous Weekend in Warkworth.
Inaugural, because World-Famous Weekends in Warkworth are the means by which the town can take control of its own destiny, and partner with Auckland Council as an equal in the projects important to it. Arguably most proximate and urgent project is the Mahurangi River Restoration Trust’s consented dredging works, to restore the tidehead town’s raison d’être. Once craft can over-tide in the town, weekend visits to Warkworth become viable. Having, against huge odds, snatched back the America’s Cup, it would be unconscionable for the tidehead town that is making so much money from Larry Ellison to be inaccessible by sea during the 2021 visitor armada.
Culturally, geographically and historically, Warkworth has far too much going for it to be just another dormitory town, and car-centric and unwalkable to boot. Built at the end of a motorway, this will be its fate without a clear vision of, and coherent plan for, something far more intelligent. For the following year, while the future of the town is still malleable, the World-Famous in Warkworth format will allow some of the most influential urban designers on the planet to appear in the Warkworth Town Hall, live-streamed and interactive.
But not only does the under-construction motorway threaten to define and consign Warkworth to serve as a dormitory town, it also poses a threat to its popularity as a way point for travellers, given how humans, and famously the males of the species, are hardwired to resist detouring from a journey. Objectively, contemporary traffic volumes, combined with the perversely convoluted Hill Street intersection, have caused Warkworth to become a bottleneck, and have hamstrung the town’s visitor potential for more than a decade. The rational response is to make Warkworth work better both as a way point and a destination, the former role fuelling the latter.
Warkworth, to remain attractive to its residents and visitors alike, must, even with its planned fivefold satellite-growth-centre growth, must strive to remain a town, not a suburb. The town is just far enough removed from the metropolis for World-Famous Weekends in Warkworth to be an iconic tonic for Aucklanders, the servicing of whom would create work for Warkworthians, without them needing to spend hours each day commuting.
Whether the World-Famous Weekends in Warkworth concept takes off, and whether along the lines outlined here, the line-up of world-famous faces will likely bear no resemblance to the top-of-the-head examples used.
Readers are warmly encouraged to put their oars in, for their world-famous favourites.