I've been with the Kāpiti News for 20 years. Break open the bubbly. That's quite a milestone!
My colleague Rosalie advised me she was starting primary school when I started out as a reporter. We had a few laughs.
I haven't got a tally of how many stories I've written but the number is somewhere in the stratosphere.
Reflecting back over the years, one single date is etched in my mind. It was October 3, 2003. I had gone into Wellington with friends to watch Wellington take on Otago in an NPC game in the stadium. The Friday night game was a bit of a dour dogfight, in miserable conditions, but we were in a corporate box so spirits were high.
After the game we headed home but were forced to stop at Paekākāriki. A weather bomb had hit causing widespread flooding especially along Beach Rd and adjoining roads. It was a mess. And then a freight plane crashed into the sea between Peka Peka and Kāpiti Island tragically killing two on board. Two national news events.
I'll always remember writing about Dave Bowman, who was battling a terminal brain tumour, but took on Pharmac to try and subsidise drugs that would give him, and others in his predicament, a bit more life expectancy. There was a huge, and quite moving, fundraising evening at Southwards Theatre organised by police. I felt gutted for him especially as he'd never get to see his two young sons grow up.
The untimely death of Frank van Kampen was shocking. The well-liked Kapanui School teacher was cycling home to Ōtaki when a drunk woman drove her car directly into him at Te Horo. He stood no chance. He left behind a loving partner and a baby. The motorist's actions still annoy me. I can still picture the heavy black tyre marks that veered violently towards him.
Being a journalist can lead to some great opportunities. One of those was when Tiger Woods played in the NZ Open at Paraparaumu Beach Golf Club in January 2002. I managed to follow the golfing great, in close proximity, for a few rounds, taking photographs.
Another highlight was when my story about a 1-year-old boy, who could hear for the first time, after a cochlear implant, made it to the front page of the New Zealand Herald. The guest editor was actor Lucy Lawless who was given the role as part of the Herald's 150th birthday celebrations.
A funny moment was when we ran a front page April Fool's story about a proposed wind turbine farm on Kāpiti Island. There was a huge response from the public. Some were totally steamed up but others had never laughed so much. The emails were arriving thick and fast. Gavin Bradley, from Luvly, played a key part in the prank. My byline surname was even changed to Hoaxton.
An unnerving incident happened when I went to a car crash in Paraparaumu, put a long lens on the camera, zoomed in, from some distance, to see Dr Chris Lane on top of the car helping the driver. The motorist looked in bad shape but I had a fright when the young man, who already had a neck brace on, saw me and raised the birdie. My heart skipped a few beats. It was a riveting photo.
The proposed two lane Western Link Rd generated lots of stories until it got so watered down that the government stepped in and proposed the Mackays to Peka Expressway which led to a truckload more stories, most of it critical of the project. People, especially those whose homes were affected, were up in arms. Others felt the district would be severed in half. Time moves on, the expressway is now an integral part of the community, and driving on it is a pleasure.
Some of the other stories that stick in the mind include the light plane/helicopther crash over Paraparaumu which claimed three lives, Prince William's visit to Kāpiti Island, and council's botched sludge vitrification project.
One of things I'm most proud of is how far the newspaper has come. Many people we meet say how much they enjoy the newspaper. Those favourable comments have happened for many years now. That's a great measure of success and a testament to the hardworking and loyal staff in our office as well as the wider NZME company.
In the early days it felt like a bit of a David and Goliath battle especially with another community newspaper well entrenched and with a lot more staff. But with perseverance we've chipped away, made various improvements, and simply got better and better.
Some years ago we won our company's internal community newspaper of the year title, and last year we were a finalist in the national Voyager Media Awards in the same category. Both fist pump moments.
Of course there's been a whole lot of technological change too, such as our website, which has added to our repertoire in an industry that is very fast paced and instant.
The best part has been getting out and about, meeting lots of interesting people, listening to their stories, and being able to capture moments of time, most of which is positive. I look forward to writing many more.