Far North surfers in Ahipara were reportedly relieved to find Surf2Surf had discontinued the controversial live stream of conditions at their local break last week.
However, hackles remain raised over an inflammatory statement released at the same time by the online surfing website which has accused the Far North surfing community of territorialism by using threatening tactics to achieve its objectives.
Many local surfers were outraged to discover the cam - installed at a house on Reef View Road last month with a spectacular and revealing panorama over surf conditions at the world-famous points at Ahipara west from Te Kohanga (commonly referred to as Shipwreck Bay) - had begun live streaming last month.
Someone went on to the rental property while it was empty and painted over the casing containing the camera with black paint to obscure the view. The owner of the house was also approached and advised the presence of the surf cam was not being regarded kindly by local surfers. The owner, who the Age has chosen not to name, said the strength of the reaction - which included the local boardriders' club meeting before Easter to reinforce a two-year-old stance to keep "Ahipara surf-cam free" - had taken the family by surprise.
"We had no idea this would happen," they said.
The stream was eventually discontinued last Thursday but S2S director Paul Brunskill came out firing by issuing a statement on his website accusing local surfers of mounting a hostile campaign of intimidation and vandalism which had been carried out in an intense, planned manner and focused directly at S2S and the camera host, a family with "lifelong ties to Ahipara and its community".
"It was getting dangerous. Verbal threats toward our hosts continued even after the camera image was removed from S2S on Easter Monday ... We were warned by a member of the boardriders' association on Easter Monday that more vandalism was planned shortly after Easter. This boardriders member asked not to be identified. At that point Kaitaia Police became involved."
The NCB group responded quickly and angrily to the S2S statement. Club spokesman Pete Mitchell dismissed "90 per cent" of the claims made in Brunskill's statement as complete fabrication and based on misinformation. He also emphasised the club did not condone standover or guerilla tactics, particularly those by any individuals who had attempted to sabotage the camera in situ on private property.
However, Mitchell said the turnout for the meeting at Ahipara on Thursday, March 24, with 35 present and 20 apologies received, simply showed the majority of the surfing community's vehement and vociferous opposition against having a surf cam in the coastal town. He also noted Brunskill had failed to live up to his commitment to engage the local surfing community or local hapu in person before the camera began streaming.
"The club's stance has now moved beyond that of 2012 due almost entirely to Brunskill's underhanded and one-sided actions. As per vote at Thursday's meeting we now oppose surf cams in Ahipara and indeed the Far North full stop.
"The economic benefits to the community from this camera we believe are minimal at best. Few surfers using the cam, its accompanying daily updated report and its swell alert forecast will spend much money in the area. We believe Brunskill is acting petulantly because of lost subscription revenue now the cam is coming down despite his pleas that his website is 'small'," Mitchell said, noting even Brunskill had had admitted to having experienced negative reaction wherever S2S had erected surf cams at other breaks.
Mitchell also emphasised North Coast Boardriders - who hold annual beach clean-ups, tree-planting maintenance and the odd, infrequent contest - was not anti-tourism.
"We welcome ventures/ ideas which contribute positively without adversely affecting the local way of life," he said, referring to the "beautiful rohe" of Ahipara which was widely regarded as the jewel of the Far North.
Among the various other concerns expressed at the NCB meeting on March 24, was that a surf cam threatened to take things over the "tipping point" by having a "massive impact on the local environment" by causing overcrowding at the break in the same way that had happened at Raglan (a Raglan surfer contacted by the Age described the S2S surf cam there as being the "kiss of death" for the famed Waikato lefthand points); while some wondered what a surf cam would do to promote an awareness that access to the surf breaks was granted purely thanks to the good grace of a local hapu; access which could be denied through any perceived lack of respect by those keen to exploit the region's renowned surf for profit.
Worries were also expressed about the lack of any infrastructure around the points as being unable to deal with flotsam, jetsam and human waste left behind by the inevitable surge in visiting surfers caused by the surf cam.
Other remarks included that just because everywhere else has a cam doesn't mean Ahipara has to have one, and that some communities around the world have successfully stopped the construction of McDonald's restaurants in their neighbourhoods through pro-active opposition to the fast food giant.
- Footnote: The NCB held another meeting last night and Thursday's edition will feature an update and official statement from the club.