"Don't let this be like a funeral. We don't want it to be."

So said Drago Yelavich, the last president of the Kaitaia Rotary Club, at the final gathering before the club passed into the annals of history, or "shut up shop," as Mr Yelavich put it.

It had been an emotionally difficult decision to make, he said, but with only four remaining members there had been little choice. The club had an extraordinary record of service to its community over the past 65 years, however, businessman Monty Knight, whose links with the club included reputedly setting a land speed record in a Rotary trolley derby on Redan Rd many years ago, saying the town owed generations of Rotarians an enormous debt.

"You have made a great contribution to this town," he said.


"Be proud of it. We are proud of you."

Mr Yelavich detailed a phenomenal history, starting with the very first project, building the paddling pool at Kaitaia's war memorial baths (soon to be succeeded by Te Hiku Sports Hub). Rotarians also played an active role in building Kaitaia's first kindergarten, Anne West, and the Plunket rooms.

More building projects were to come, including the nurses' recreation hall at Kaitaia Hospital in 1958/59.

In more recent times the club had collected spectacles and books for the Pacific Islands, emergency response kits and shelter boxes for disaster relief.

Perhaps the most visible signs that Kaitaia had an active Rotary club were the not uncontroversial town clock (which has been removed, and has not reappeared despite district council assurances that it would), the welcome signs at the northern and southern entrances to the town (the northern one also having disappeared, to make way for the North Rd roundabout, which has not reappeared despite council assurances that it would), and the Rotary waterwheel outside what is now Te Ahu, built to mark the club's 25th anniversary in 1979, now in a sad state of repair.

And throughout the 65 years there were programmes for youth, from international exchanges, the Rotary Youth Leadership Award, Rotary Youth Driver Awareness (RYDA) and a week-long Challenge Camp to the Model United Nations Assembly in Wellington, Outward Bound, Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE), science fairs and dictionaries in schools.

"I feel that this club has lived by Rotary's four-way test," Mr Yelavich said.

"Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned? The answers have always been yes."