High Heels & Gum­boots

Re­becca Hayter swaps city life for 10 acres in Golden Bay.

North & South - - North & South -

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.

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