Community spirit

By: Cr John Watson

Earlier this year local school students were asked to give their views on life on the Hibiscus Coast. Some of them said they would like to see more of a sense of ‘community’ or ‘belonging’.

This was a little surprising for in years gone by the Coast has always had a really strong sense of community. This had its origins with the early settlers. In the 1920s, for instance, the entire population of the peninsula would gather on Manly Beach for the ‘Settlers’ Christmas Picnic’. There were running races, watermelons and a big dance at the hall in the evening.

These early communities were also incredibly self-reliant. During the 1950s the Whangaparaoa Ratepayers Association built the community’s tennis courts, bowling club and hall, which acted as a picture theatre, library and dance venue. It was a remarkable feat financed by the raising of bonds from within the local community and the generous donations of materials and free labour.

There was a distinctly independent, ‘can-do’ attitude on the Coast and a community spirit that stood out. It was also laid back and friendly – people would stop and talk to each other.
Over recent decades urbanization has caught up with us, and fast. This brought with it social issues, a number of which remain largely hidden from public view. And because we live in such a beautiful environment, outside agencies sometimes erroneously assume there must be few problems. Some though can actually be worse.

However, we are fortunate to have some truly remarkable people in our midst. They do so much for the community and often with little or no recognition. One such group is devoted to saving the lives of young people. The recent passing of their main benefactor, an amazingly generous and committed man, has posed some real challenges, as has having to move from a location vital to the sensitive nature of their work. They need help. For a group that has done so much good in our community and which is so desperately needed, it is disturbing to see such governmental indifference to both their modest needs and to the truly remarkable success they have had in dealing with one of the most pressing social problems of our time.

So for the young people who wanted a little more sense of community and belonging we can all help …a friendly smile, a hello, a little kindness. There are plenty of people in our community, young and old alike, who can do with that. Our predecessors knew the importance of such basic humanity to a community. So should we.

Merry Christmas everyone.


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