High Heels & Gumboots
Rebecca Hayter swaps city life for 10 acres in Golden Bay.
THERE WAS A moving-truckload of reasons to leave city life: making a U-turn from the daily traffic of impatience; the frustrating quest to park my timid set of wheels; withdrawing below the parapet of sirens, queues and jostling that can erupt on city streets. Oh, for the peace of country life, I thought, as I headed south for Golden Bay.
Yet, since arriving here, I’ve never seen so many battles.
These mostly involve Tasman District Council (TDC) and residents of Golden Bay: long waits for building consents, requests to desist from roadside spraying, sky-high marina fees at Port Tarakohe, the fight to save the Takaka grandstand and its $150,000 legal bill, years of begging for a cycleway.
It made me feel better to learn that such squabbling is normal. Apparently, research shows conflict between a distinctive, isolated community and its council is common. The greater the distinction and the distance between said community and parent council, the greater the conflict is likely to be. I suspect GB vs TDC is a textbook case.
Golden Bay is distinctive: a foundation of third-, fourth- and even fifth-generation families, including many farmers; a hippy vibe laid down in the communes of the 1970s that’s matured to artistic, holistic and philosophical colour; a dedication to organic principles and sustainability; a plethora of Phds who intellectualise on Extremely Important Topics. It’s a diverse mix but often united in an aversion to environmental risk for economic gain. As for distance, it’s a two-hour drive to TDC HQ.
But we can rebel. Defect. Petition for divorce.
Golden Bay is great on petitions. Cruise down Commercial St, enter a funky cafe or dip into the Takaka Library and it’s likely your signature will be welcome beneath a carefully worded paragraph. When I first came here, I got scribble-happy, but it pays to read that paragraph before signing allegiance to the cause.
However, I was happy to sign a petition to support – wait for it – a local board to replace the community board. I know, it’s lacking in “wow!”, but stay with me, please.
The Golden Bay Community Board comprises a fine group of two Golden Bay ward councillors and four other elected members. They listen to ratepayers’ concerns at monthly meetings and make earnest recommendations to council, which may then ignore them. A community board has as much muscle as a mussel.
A local board, however, has a budget and the power to make decisions over items such as recreation facilities, cycleways, campgrounds, marinas and roads.
Local boards have existed in Auckland since 2010, including one for Great Barrier Island. As part of a unitary council, Golden Bay is eligible to apply for local board status through the Local Government Commission.
The idea is not entirely new. We used to have a Golden Bay County Council before it was amalgamated with councils representing Waimea, Richmond and Motueka into Tasman District Council. Like mixing coloureds, woollens and nylons in with your delicates, murkiness can be expected to ensue.
Worse, so the story goes, on amalgamation day TDC took the county council’s brand-new tip truck away over the Takaka Hill for its own sandpit. Ouch.
If enough people of Golden Bay sign the petition and replace the community board with a local board, I’m sure there will still be differences of opinion within Golden Bay – but at least it might save a truckload of paper in petitions.
Golden Bay residents protest against the planned removal of the 119-year-old Takaka grandstand.