Kihikihi Bowling Club : Dave Barnett’s second home


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There’s an old saying in lawn bowls : ‘if you haven’t got a bowling green, you haven’t got a bowling club’.

And that’s exactly what the Kihikihi Bowling Club, a few k’s south of Te Awamutu in the Waikato, faced a few years ago. Nematodes had invaded the two grass greens at Kihikihi. And short of nuking the greens with a flamethrower or excavating the 1,000 square metre squares with a Komatsu, there was little that could be done to restore them to a bowlable condition.

Putting down an artificial was a possible solution. But the cost of doing so was a big number, even for just one green. It was a number that was beyond the modest club treasury of Kihikihi.

What’s more, the usual grant funders didn’t seem willing to come to the party.

‘Kiki’ (‘Keekee’) as it is locally known, faced closure.

But for retired farmer and President Dave Barnett, whose second home is Kiki, closing the club was not an option. “I wanted a new green. I didn’t want to see the end of Kiki.”

“I could afford to pay for a new green … and wanted a new green. So I made the offer to the club to pay for a new green. Bugger it, I told them, let’s do both!”

For Kiki, it was like winning the Golden Kiwi. But while one big problem seemed solved, another big problem reared its head : the local council deemed the greens to be a HAIL site (Hazardous Activities and Industries listed) because of presumed contamination from 70 years of spraying all sorts of agrichemicals.

“We were told we needed a resource consent to put down an artificial,” says Dave, “That was going to be $14k just to get the ball rolling.”

“We had a scientist carry out widespread sampling and testing of the greens. It came up contamination-free. But the council weren’t happy. So they decided to do the tests themselves ,... which we had to pay for!”

“They used the same scientist to take the same samples and test them at the same testing centre. And unsurprisingly got the same no-contamination result.”

“We got our resource consent after a year. That may not be long in council time, but It was a year that we couldn’t play bowls. Fortunately Otorohanga offered to host us in the meantime, although COVID lockdowns even limited those visits.”

“FieldTurf NZ got the job to do the new greens,” says Dave. “We had already had a lot of issues, and were comforted by the fact they were overseen by Bowls New Zealand. We wanted things to run smoothly. It worked out great - Steve Beel was on top of the job all the time.”

“Once they scraped a foot of dirt off the greens (It still had to be trucked away to a contaminated disposal site despite the negative tests!), we found solid clay underneath. We were able to lay drainage and top the greens up with metal. We ended up with the ideal surface for the carpets.”

The newly-opened greens look stunning. So stunning in fact, that the Waikato Centre will be holding the Champion of Champions in May at Kiki.

The 40 or so playing members at Kiki weren’t idle over the year the greens were out of action. “We took the opportunity to paint both the inside and outside of the clubhouse,” says Dave. “It’s easy to get volunteers at Kiki. It’s the nature of the club ... everyone pitches in.”

They not only pitch in for the working bees, but also pitch in for the roll-ups. “We get 30 or so members here for a roll-up on club days, And we can get up to 80 people here for the weekly twilight over Summer.”

“The members tend to enjoy just playing their bowls at Kiki. Or sometimes at other clubs around the Waikato. You wont see us often at Centre tournaments. Or the Nationals. We did used to send a team to New Plymouth, but haven’t over the past years.”

The officeholders at the Kihikihi Bowling Club also enjoy their administrative roles in the club – they stick with their roles. “I’ve been President since 2010,” says Dave. “Murray Coxhead has been the Treasurer since 2006, and the Treasurer before him started back in 1985!”

“Of course, they may want to kick me out now, the new greens are done and dusted,” Dave laughs. “But that’d be okay too … I just love the club.”

And it’s easy to see the other members love the club too. They’re proud of their new greens, their newly spruced-up clubhouse, their new uniforms … even their new flag which is unfurled each day on the club’s flagpole.

And they’re proud to have a bloke like Dave Barnett who has unconditionally given so much to the club.

Thanks for everything Dave.