Te Puke Times
‘Wow three years already’ — local leaders look back
Community board duo reflect on three years of Covid-19 and service
Local community boards have had their final meeting of this three-year term ahead of local government elections in October. The Te Puke Times caught up with Maketu¯ community board chairman Shane Beech and Te Puke community board chair Richard Crawford to discuss the highs and lows of the past three years.
Crawford said he was surprised by how quickly the time had gone.
“When you look back and that, you go, ‘wow, three years already?”’
He named footpath construction, a new cycleway, getting approval for a dog park, and a project to bring a trail of history boards telling the story of the town as the things he was most proud of over the past term.
Like all communities, the board struggled to adapt to Covid-19 during this term.
“Covid has not really given us three, four years of actually being able to get things across the line, so normally we would have been able to accomplish a lot more.
“It’s an extraordinary time . . . no community board or council has ever gone through a time like this before.”
The community board ran the Emergency Management Team to help provide people with food during lockdowns, and also to assist in the tsunami evacuation in 2021, when Crawford said Te Puke was “inundated with Papamoa people”.
He hoped the incoming board members would continue to work on a new pool and a new library for the area, as well as continuing the history board project.
He said the pace of progress could be “really frustrating”, and urged those seeking office not to get discouraged by that.
“It’s good to be a voice and be in a place to make good decisions for the community, but getting things done doesn’t get made faster just because you get on council . . . don’t be disappointed you can’t change things overnight.
“It’s not just about one person or one leader, it’s about everybody working together as a team.”
He said board members should see themselves as advocates for their community and a bridge between the community and the council.
“Sometimes you get some guys in those positions, or even just chair roles, and they just do everything, and they don’t really include the whole board . . . then you get a disengaged board.
“You have to go in there putting your own agendas aside, and really being a voice [for] and really engaging community.”
Crawford is standing for the Western Bay of Plenty District Council at the upcoming local elections.
Shane Beech said his board had also faced issues due to Covid-19.
“It was difficult during the Covid times where you couldn’t do face-toface — that made it very challenging for board members to meet in place and sort of talk around the table.
“It didn’t make life easy for us, but I guess everyone was in the same boat, so we all had to adapt.
“But as time went forward, the last few meetings we’ve had have been excellent.”
He said the most recent three of his 12 years as board chair had seen “the completion of some of the jobs that have been in the system for, goodness, probably six to nine years — seeing them either make a start or being finished”.
He echoed Crawford’s pride in the new cycleway and footpaths, as well as assisting the rotary club in adding outdoor exercise gear, renovating the community centre and completing a feasibility study for a new community hub.
He hoped the next board would continue work on a water culvert going under a road to manage excess stormwater with climate change threatening more rain, and the lower part of Maketu¯ being “quite floodable”.
“We’ve been pushing that for many, many years to get put in, so I’d like to see that.”
He also wanted some upgrades to the beach access to prevent people spraining their ankles, and for work to continue on a development plan for the Spencer Ave reserve.
He felt he was leaving the board “in a healthy space” for the incoming members.
He advised them to do “lots of preplanning — I call it crystal ball gazing”.
“You’ve got to look three years ahead, minimum . . . nothing’s going to happen overnight, but it will happen as long as you stick with it.”
Beech will not be standing for his position again after holding it for 12 years.