Pauatahanui stalwart reflects
Alan Gray, regarded by many as the consummate Pauatahanui resident, is typically modest about his standing in the community.
Despite sharing his surname with one of Pauatahanui’s main roads and having been a spokesman on local issues for years, Mr Gray pointed out that he went to Plimmerton School rather than Pauatahanui School seven decades ago.
‘‘I’m a bit of a fraud as a local boy. I’ve traded a bit on the family name,’’ he said.
Mr Gray, a former cancer specialist, is just as humble about his career, dismissing a gong he received from former Prime Minister Helen Clark.
His friend and former colleague Dr Peter Dady, however, said Wellington Hospital’s cancer ward should be named after Mr Gray, who helped institute the country’s breast and cervical cancer screening programmes.
Mr Gray is stepping down as secretary of the Pauatahanui Residents’ Association, a position he has held since 2006.
‘‘Getting too old,’’ the 76-yearold said.
Younger people were starting to come through the association’s ranks, which was an encouraging sign in a village that no longer had the community sensibility it once had, Mr Gray said.
‘‘There was always something going on at the local hall. You can’t get that now,’’ he said.
‘‘People come to the country and buy their five-hectare block and it’s like a little bunker for them. It’s a little bit of paradise they want in the country – but the paradise is a lot bigger than five hectares, so they should take a bit more interest.’’
With Transmission Gully con- struction starting next year, Pauatahanui could use the support of its millionaires and highflying civil servants, Mr Gray said.
‘‘There’s a whole lot of talent out there. I just wish we could tap into it more, because there’s really going to be a massive change. In 15 or 20 years, you probably won’t recognise it.’’
Mr Gray said a construction depot would be built just metres from Pauatahanui village while Transmission Gully took shape, and the site might be used for big-box retailing afterwards.
‘‘ My particular problem is how to preserve the inlet.
‘‘You can see what’s happened in Porirua with all the industrial sites – it’s just ruined the harbour.’’
A changing Pauatahanui is bittersweet for Mr Gray.
He said he would like to see more life injected into the village, which was kept alive now by the thriving school, but he wanted the main street and surrounding landscape to retain their character.
‘‘ I wouldn’t like to see too much happen to the village, but you can’t stop things.’’
One of the Pauatahanui Residents’ Association’s biggest successes in Mr Gray’s time was creating a landscape plan with Porirua City Council, which protected the village’s iconic ridges from development in exchange for smaller subdivision sizes in the gullies.
The collaboration came after years of acrimony, especially when the council tried to institute a septic tank register in 2010 without consultation.
‘‘I was absolutely furious they would go ahead without talking to us,’’ Mr Gray said.
Other PRA successes included Pauatahanui’s village plan, its just-released history book and the resistance to a proposed Puketiro wind farm, Mr Gray said.
‘‘I believe in global warming, but I don’t believe in destroying the country.’’
Mr Gray would like to see Pauatahanui’s old farms returned to conservation land, but has not decided what to do with his own 150 acres, part of the Gray family’s original 1700-acre block.
His brothers’ families share the rest of the old block, but the section Mr Gray shares with wife Christine Stanley is too small to divide between his four children.
Gentrification and suburbanisation were inevitable in Pauatahanui as the remaining few farms were subdivided, Mr Gray said.
In the 1960s there was a plan to create a six-suburb ‘‘Pauatahanui City’’.
The plans were scuppered by the 1973 oil crisis, but could still come true, Mr Gray said.
‘‘ In the end you can say Pauatahanui City is taking shape.’’
Retiring: Alan Gray encourages young people to take his place on Pauatahanui Residents’ Association as the village enters a period of growth and change.