In early November, 40 Bay of Islands College students graduated from the newly-formed Arataki Leadership Course.
Arataki – meaning to guide or to lead – is based along military lines although it's not a course sanctioned by the New Zealand Defence Force, nor is it a recruiting tool.
The motto is Tu Kaha. Tu Maea. Tu ki Mua. Stand strong. Stand Up. Stand in Front.
Volunteers, however, learned what it was like to be in a barrack environment where making the bed properly and "sussing down light bulbs" are considered more important than eating or sleeping.
There is a heavy emphasis on the team milieu where participants are required to lead others, and themselves.
The course is both physically and mentally demanding and students were split into two platoons. Seventy volunteers signed up in June and, as if to demonstrate the rigours of the course, just 40 graduated in November.
The programme has been specifically designed for Bay of Islands College. Course leader Lt Tuari Davis-Brooking said the emphasis is on leadership.
"It harnesses the potential these young men and woman already possess, it opens their eyes, and places them in a peer group they would not normally associate with.
"We have had Year 9s telling Year 13s what to do and Year 13s relying on Year 9s for support."
On November 6 the 40 graduates added parade ground skills to their learnings by marching in front of school and whānau to receive their Arataki Leadership badges from Captain Damian Bluett-Marr of the Royal New Zealand Infantry Regiment.
Kerikeri Domain projects move slowly forward
Fifty years ago Kerikeri welcomed a new two-storey pavilion to the town's domain, which housed the rugby and squash clubs.
Four years ago the pavilion was damaged in an arson attack. The building was subsequently boarded up, although the floodlights and changing rooms were used for rugby league. The squash club became homeless.
What followed was considerable community discussion about whether the pavilion should be rebuilt or demolished and a new facility erected. There were various U-turns and backtracks that created the inevitable controversy and the whole project looked at times like stalling to a complete halt.
A Kerikeri Domain Reserve Management Plan was formulated in 2018 and included public consultation that attracted 151 submissions. The resulting plan included direction on the day-to-day management of the domain.
Finally, in March this year, the building was demolished but even then, there were no firm plans on constructing a new multi-use facility to take its place. Then along came lockdown in April and all decisions and future work were on hold.
Now, under the Government's initiative to promote Covid-19 Response and Recovery projects, $3 million has been granted to enable work to commence on several of the Kerikeri Domain projects.
The Kerikeri Domain Working Group was formed and comprises Bay of Islands-Whangaroa Community Board members, councillors and staff. The group is chaired by Lane Ayr, one of the three community board members representing the Kerikeri Ward and who initially was among those wanting to rebuild the existing pavilion.
"I wasn't successful," he said somewhat ruefully.
The projects and priorities were selected by the working group following a recent meeting with representatives of domain users. About 30 people attended the October meeting, representing 28 domain user groups.
Some of the projects given the go-ahead in the agreement signed with Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment include creating a concept design plan, new play and recreation areas, replacing skateboard and basketball facilities, erecting safety fencing between the Cobham Rd carpark and the playground, installing seating suitable for elderly domain users, and setting aside an area for the recently-closed Kerikeri RSA to install a memorial.
A meeting on November 16 confirmed the acceptance of a Northland design group to begin initial drawings and plans. Ayr said it was essential to the process.
"We don't want to get to the stage five years in the future and find we don't have enough space left for a building."
He said the "likely" first projects will be a new skateboard facility and basketball court.
Joyful actors take to the stage
What started as a concept to help encourage Kerikeri businesses affected by lockdown has, according to one of the actors involved, "grown like Topsy".
Eight amateur thespians have banded together to write, produce and star in their own short, sharp comedy sketches. The first productions are collectively entitled Locked In.
The small theatrical troupe has performed twice at Kerikeri's Cinema Café, where they were not just joyful but triumphant too – both nights were sold out.
Les Robinson, one of the leading actors in Stage Door productions in Kerikeri, said the aim is to bring joy, hence the name.
"We are just a small bunch of actors who want to roam about, have some fun and bring laughter into people's lives after what has been a difficult year for so many," she said.
Locked In sketches are around eight minutes long, with two actors on average in each. They are titled: A Visit To A Fortune Teller by Trudie Smith, The Dreaded Virus by Roger Ludbrook, Catherine and Spike by Georgia Norman and Maggie and Rona by Les Robinson.
The next Locked In performances will be at the Packhouse Market at 6.30pm on December 10. Tickets are limited and bookings are essential from the Packhouse Market café. The cost of $30 includes the show plus a pie and mash, and a sweet treat.
Sailing uncharted waters
The R Tucker Thompson is a familiar sight in the Bay of Islands. The gaff-rigged schooner was built in Mangawhai and launched in 1985, and for the past 14 years has been operated by the R Tucker Sail Training Trust based in Opua.
She has all the traditional design elements of a classic tall ship but married to contemporary materials. She rigs up for tourist jaunts on the bay, she's available for private hire or charter and over the winter months she will host around 150 teenagers who embark on the Youth Development programme.
Some teens are already involved in personal expansion challenges like the Duke of Edinburgh Hillary Award or the St John Cadet Ventureship Gold Badge Award. Others will be brought on board after liaison with various mainstream colleges and alternative education providers.
The youth programme usually finishes in October but because of the Covid-19 lockdown, the winter sailing activity for youth finished later this year, in November. Even so, the R Tucker Thompson still hosted the usual 150 teens on 13 separate voyages.
Summer revenue is the mainstay of the entire operation. The normally busy tourist season, which in the past has included international visitors and cruise ship excursionists, has been sufficient to subsidise the youth training programme, literally keeping it afloat and keeping crew in employment.
This year's sailing programme, however, is heading towards uncharted waters. With borders more or less closed to international tourists, the trust will be entirely dependent on the domestic market and whether that's sufficient to sustain the operation has yet to be established.
Executive trustee Jane Hindle said domestic tourists are this year essential to survival.
"We are hoping to get lots of support from our local kiwis to give it a go and try sailing on our lovely tall ship.
"Until Christmas we will be sailing four days a week Monday to Friday and the ship is available for school groups and charters during the middle of the week."
She said some schools have already booked and the trust is looking at increasing the marketing and advertising budget.
Other income will be derived from sponsorship or donations, but the not-for-profit charity is still heavily reliant on a healthy summer of out-of-town holiday-makers and local Northlanders who have yet to experience sailing on a tall ship.
Like many other businesses in the Bay of Islands and elsewhere in New Zealand the R Tucker Thompson Sail Training Trust can only hope and pray for a buoyant season.
It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Sunday, November 29, at 2.30pm - The Bay of Islands Singers – Fauré, Finzi and Festive Favourites, Turner Centre, Kerikeri. After nearly a year with no concerts, the Bay of Islands Singers are finally able to get back on stage to present their end-of-year concert. The setting of Fauré's Requiem is followed by works with celebratory and Christmassy themes by Haydn, Handel, Holst, Adam and Finzi. The choir will be joined by a lineup of soloists, with guest orchestra directed by John Jackets.
Friday December 4 and Saturday December 5, 7pm - Stage Door Christmas Cracker! Turner Centre, Kerikeri. Get Christmas going with a bang! This entertaining Variety Show from The Stage Door will raise funds for Hospice Mid-Northland. Comedy sketches, dance, songs and guest performances by Bella A Cappella NZ and Northern Dance Academy. turnercentre.co.nz
Friday December 4 – Paihia Christmas Parade 5.30-7pm. The theme this year is "Under the Canopy" – think bush, birds, rain forest and monkeys. And Santa of course. All shops and cafes remain open.
Tuesday December 8, 5-7pm, Kerikeri Primary School annual Christmas event. Children will sing and families are encouraged to bring a picnic or support the food stalls provided by the PTA. At around 6.30pm (depending on snow conditions in the northern hemisphere) a special visitor may pop in with some lollies.
Thursday December 10, 11am–3pm Carols in the Park. Ngati Rahiri Māori Komiti hosting Carols in the Park at the Waitangi Marae. All welcome.
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