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New Waikanae Surf Life Saving clubhouse a great achievement

Opinion Piece

The opening of the Waikanae Surf Life Saving Club’s new home was a wonderful day for the district’s oldest surf lifesaving club and could also be the harbinger of a new era for the city’s main beach.

With its improved storage, lifeguard tower, gymnasium and two large areas available for functions, the $1.8 million building is light years ahead of its faithful but dowdy predecessor.

The loyalty and traditions of the Waikanae club that have seen them achieve great success in national competitions is reflected in the building committee of Sean Shivnan, Gary Stevens and Olympic gold-medallists Alan Thompson and Grant Bramwell — all of them club stalwarts.

It was a huge seven-year effort that led to the official opening of the new building at the weekend, including more than $100,000 raised from the public.

It was fitting that two of the club’s legends were involved in the ceremony — Waikanae’s first junior captain Barry McLean cut the ribbon, and club historian Dick Glover, who wrote the book marking its 50th anniversary in 2000, made a speech.

The aesthetic improvement to the beach will be welcomed by the new operator of the adjoining holiday park, Gisborne Holdings Ltd — the new clubhouse will no doubt fit much better than its predecessor with GHL’s still-to-be announced improvement plans.

Could it even be a step back towards the glory days of the Waikanae beach carnivals of the 1950s, when thousands of locals thronged the area during the holidays?

Gisborne is blessed to have such a magnificent beach located within easy walking distance from the Central Business District, stretching along as it does past Midway all the way to the Waipaoa river mouth and providing a priceless local asset.

What should not be overlooked in all the celebrations is the safety record of the club. Barry McLean reminded everyone that to this day there has never been a drowning at Waikanae. That is a proud tradition the occupants of the new clubhouse will be eager to preserve.