So predictable!" I thought when I learned that the swing at Mosquito Point had been taken down for "safety reasons," and replaced with a badly designed changing room and signs everywhere telling us that Horizons "recognises the importance of being safe".
"You're so predictable," my travel companion said to me when I launched into one of my rants about the serial incompetence of our local regional council.
I have been a consistent critic of Horizons and their Balgownie stopbanks on the lower Whanganui River. In a one-in-100-year flood, sixty per cent of the Balgownie industrial area would be "flooded to a depth of 0.5m to 1.0m," we were told at the time. As it turned out the June 2015, one in 150-year flood, which happened to coincide with a king tide, didn't touch the base of the Horizons' Balgownie stopbanks and the only flooding there was caused by the stopbanks preventing the Kokohuia swamp floodwaters escaping into the river.
When Horizons called for public feedback asking us to nominate our favourite swimming hole, and when Mosquito Point came out as number one, I feared the worst.
"The swing goes back to our childhood," Whanganui River guide Charles Ranginui said to me when we took the mokopuna down for a swim. It was a hot day; there were dogs,
boats and people swimming. It was a good thing we had decided to leave Pipi at home.
I can vividly recall the day I got a blood nose at Mosquito Point, over 50 years ago. We had been taking turns at being the target on the swing and I had got a direct hit in with a handful of mud into the eyes of another teenage boy — who subsequently flew into a rage — and I remember afterwards swimming with two girls who somehow took my mind off my nose.
At the time the swing was suspended from a "cottonwood" poplar. Someone built a fire next to the poplar and eventually the tree had to come down. Papaiti bulldozer driver Paul Watson and his mates made another one with a macrocarpa pole, which the WDC replaced with a treated pine version, which kept swinging until recently it was discovered to be rotting.
You can see why Mosquito Point was voted Horizons' number one swimming spot. Since the big flood the sandy beach there has moved out and the river is cutting in above and below Mosquito Point. The WDC is about to move the road inland — costly, but the fall-back position is sensible.
From my point of view, as a landscape designer, I tend to see things that "dominate" a view.
Like the huge SLOW DOWN sign by the Sandy Hook crash corner, and the visually intrusive changing rooms at Mosquito Point — designed by a member of the Horizons "coms" (communications) team from a photo from a trip to Europe.
It just so happened that a member of the WDC "coms" team, was also enjoying a swim there. The decision not to replace the swing was made by Kym Fell and the WDC on liability grounds after receiving legal advice, I learned. Fair enough, the council has serious funding issues elsewhere. She was aware of the social media storm on Facebook about the swing not being there any more and said she could see it both ways.
In some ways, with the publicity and the increased use, the Mosquito Point beach is better for not having bodies hurtling through the air; and there's still the cliff across the river to jump off.
"Cathy" from Moscow, who was there with Charles the river guide, said that Russia had increasing "health and safety" regulations too, but "the little regulations the people ignore".
In Russia someone would just put another swing up in one of the large cottonwood trees further downriver.