Temuka: A bowls oasis in South Canterbury


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Re-seeding no.2 green : Left to right Dave Keeley, Billy Clouston and Steve Burgess

Back in the day, PYE televisions were manufactured in Waihi and Ford Anglias at Seatoun.

At the South Canterbury town of Temuka, 15 kilometres north of Timaru, they manufactured Temuka Pottery.

New Zealand households couldn’t get enough of the stuff. The signature brown glaze became synonymous with 1970s chic – dinnerware to complement your fondue. It put Temuka on the map – the Temuka Pottery was a ‘must-stop’ for Kiwis driving south. Many men have waited, standing like a teapot outside the shop.

Today the Temuka Pottery is a shadow of its former self. Despite this, there’s still good reason to stop in Temuka. Not only to peruse the more modest modern iteration of the Temuka Pottery shop, but to enjoy the wonderful stately trees of the Temuka Domain, which is also home to many local sporting codes – including lawn bowls.

The Temuka Bowling Club has to rank as one of the loveliest settings for a bowling club in New Zealand. Right up there with the likes of Carlton Cornwall in Auckland and Bluff Hill in Napier.

Club President Steve Burgess wouldn’t disagree with you. “It’s a beautiful spot here,” he says. “We’re not a flashy club. We’ve never won any national titles. But we do have what I’m told are the best greens in South Canterbury.”

They’re greens that set young bowls star Keanu Darby on the road to success. Keanu was named Under18 Bowler of the Year in 2014, and with Tayla Bruce won bronze playing for New Zealand in the Pairs in the Junior World Championships at Broadbeach, Queensland in the same year.

Steve himself has also attracted some notability. With his father John and grandson Adam, they may be the only club in New Zealand to field a triples team of three generations.

The club is one of New Zealand’s ‘centurions’ … set up in 1906 with just one green. It’s a beautiful 33.5 x 33.5 metre green which was planed and resewn last year. It looks immaculate. “We’re just resurfacing our number two green which we added in 1986,” says Steve. “It’s a little bigger – 36 x 36 metres – and it will mean that we have two top greens ready for the new season.”

Life Member Billy Clouston is at the club overseeing the re-seeding by greenkeeper Dave Keeley. “The only problem we have with the greens,” observes Billy, “is the leaves that come off the surrounding trees in Autumn. We’re sweeping leaves off the green and cleaning out the ditches all the time!”

However, that’s a small price to pay for the lawn bowls oasis that’s been created for the 70+ full-playing members: 52 men and 18 women.

They love their club and their pride is apparent for all to see – none more so than when the club won the South Canterbury Interclub 7s competition for the first time in its 26-year history in 2017/18, bringing tears to the eyes of grown men and triggering celebrations that went long into the night.

Building on that accolade, the club have gone on to show they are a force to be reckoned with on the local circuit, last season leading the Division One competition throughout the entirety of the season, before narrowly dipping out in their semi-final playoff.

A similar effort in Division Two saw the club perform with distinction throughout, only for them to miss out on the silverware in the final – but with an action packed season ahead and a good depth of playing cavalry, the club are hungry to build on their reputation and are eyeing up the opportunity to foot it with the best come October.

And after some historic jitters in the early part of the century, Temuka is now a financially sound club. They had had a unique way of raising funds for the club. “For six weeks of the year, our members used to drive cattle at the local sale yards when the Autumn sales were on,” says Steve. ”We could put 40 grand in the bank which would set us up for the year. Unfortunately, they brought ‘professionals’ in to do the work we did, and we’ve had to resort to finding other ways of raising money.”

They don’t need a lot though. “The club runs on the smell of an oily rag … Dave (the greenkeeper) gets a small honorarium, but that’s it. Our big sponsor is the Jolly Potter, a local restaurant. And our big annual Fours tournament in January each year when we field 32 teams, puts money in the kitty as well.”

Like many clubs, the January tournament is a tournament that has gained a reputation as one to keep coming back to. “Every year, we get teams from as far away as Christchurch and Dunedin,” says Steve, “People enjoy the friendliness of the club.”

It’s a friendliness that means you’re welcome to drop by any time …even if it’s after browsing the seconds at the Temuka Pottery Shop.

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-Rob Davis