Club rallies to save beachfront

By Roger Moroney

For about six weeks, Hastings man Dave Whitaker toiled to get the storm-ravaged Kairakau beach's riverside camping ground and boat ramp back into action. He was joined by a small group of fellow members of the Kairakau Development Society and Fishing Club.

It was a full-on effort fuelled by a desire to get the beachfront site looking good again - but it didn't come without a cost.

Mr Whitaker, who has been a member of the club for more than 30 years, said getting a a couple of diggers and a bulldozer on the job cost a few bob.

As did purchasing tough concrete poles which have been laid as strong foundations and sea walls along the banks where the Mangakuri River meets the ocean.

All up, about $70,000-plus.

To help meet the cost, and to do his bit for the fundraising effort, he put aside the shovel and picked up the woodworking tools and built a horse.

Not a seahorse though - a remarkable and classic rocking horse which he spent some 500 hours, over about six months, painstakingly crafting and creating.

Rather than on a saddle, he is probably better known for his exploits in years past on speedway bikes (he rode at the highest level alongside the likes of Barry Briggs and Ivan Mauger) and of his successful motorcycle business ventures.

The skills he had in both fields are also evident when it come to woodworking, and he is now looking to sell, auction or raffle the rimu and macrocarpa rocking horse to help with the cost of the reclamation and restoration work.

It is an impressive piece of work, but not the first rocking horse to emerge from his garage.

"I built one about three years ago for the grandkids - they love it," he said.

He drew inspiration from a library book which featured profiles of a classic English rocking horse.

Hours of cutting, shaping and buffing began.

He also bought a leather saddle for a pony, and carefully trimmed and recreated it into a fitting addition for the rocker.

While untrained in carpentry he said he had a good foundation for the skill as his grandfather, who came to New Zealand in 1860, was a carpenter, and his father was a skilled wordworker.

He said a grounding in mechanical and construction skills gained from preparing and racing speedway bikes, as well as doing an apprenticeship as a truck mechanic, stood him in good hands-on stead.

He was halfway through building the horse when the storms of last year struck the region.

"It was devastating. We lost a huge part of our riverside camping ground and beach to the storm."

But as soon as the storm abated the locals, and members of the club rolled their sleeves up and got stuck into rebuilding it.

They had no shortage of fill for the reclamation work, using debris from slips which had crashed across nearby roads.

They sourced concrete poles for foundation work and local farmers donated concrete.

"We went full out for six weeks."

The result has restored the banks, the boat launching area and the riverside picnic areas.

"It's actually better than it ever was. Everyone did a great job."

The club members had since completed a range of fundraising ventures, while the rocking horse will go on display at the Saddlery Warehouse in Hastings. Mr Whitaker is open to offers.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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