‘Waimea’ is a pretty popular name in New Zealand.
Up and down the country, there’s rivers, roads, suburbs, and businesses all called ‘Waimea’.
Even in the lawn bowls world, there’s two bowling clubs in New Zealand that borrow the name ‘Waimea’ : Club Waimea (the Richmond Bowling Club) on the Waimea Plains south of Nelson, and the Waimea Bowling Club in the western suburbs of New Plymouth.
Both bowling clubs have struggled in the past. Yet both bowling clubs have found new life in recent years. Club Waimea’s renaissance was reported recently at https://bowlsnewzealand.co.nz/news/richmond-bowling-club-going-from-strength-to-strength/.
And after considering closure less than a couple of years ago, the Waimea Bowling Club in New Plymouth is also moving on from strength to strength.
“We had a motion on the floor at an SGM to close the club,” says Club President Peter Scott. “The meeting had a simple decision to make : close … or concentrate on what was really important … getting new members.”
30-35 members turned up for the meeting, and fortunately opted for the latter.
“We realised we had all been busy at the club doing things that in the end didn’t really matter – instead we had to concentrate on what was important : our membership.”
The meeting galvanised the membership into action, and they unabashedly went about recruiting new members to the club.
“Lots of clubs talk about the need for new members, And it stops there … with talk. That’s not enough. You’ve just got to get out and do it. And grab new members ... kicking and screaming if necessary. People will always say ‘I’ll think about it’ or ‘I’ll join one day’ or whatever.”
Today Waimea has 55 full-playing members. And there’s another 100 or so who frequent the club casually and socially.
“There’s no pressure on anyone to do anything at the club,” says Peter. “You can do whatever you want to do, whenever you want to. It’s entirely up to the individual members.”
Axiomatically, it could be that Peter’s reassurance to new members that no commitment is required is in fact creating the very commitment the club requires.
“New members don’t need to be afraid of getting press-ganged into bowls and club obligations they aren’t comfortable with. The club can be what they themselves make of it.”
Clearly a lot of members are enjoying this new laissez-faire regime.
They’re particularly enjoying the beer and banter every Thursday evening at the club, and the resultant camaraderie that grows when blokes give each other a lot of stick. “They end up wanting to help at the club, rather than feeling they have to help.”
So far this year, 15 new members have joined the club (9 joined last year). And although the yellow AA signpost at the end of the street insists that it’s a men’s-only club, Waimea is in fact open to both men and women. “Our wom
en’s numbers are low,” admits Peter. “We just need to get to a threshold where the women feel that they can continually get good women’s competition within the club.”
Waimea is a relatively young club. It was established in 1950 on the site of the Reesby’s sawmill and timber yard which serviced the construction of the state houses in the area. It grew fast, and it was one of Taranaki’s powerhouse clubs at one time with over 200 members.
“We’ve still got a few Taranaki Open winners here,” says Peter, “and our green is probably still rated one of the top 5 greens in Taranaki.”
But if the club’s membership recruitment success is anything to go by, then those heydays of the 50’s and 60’s may well return again … and we’ll hear a lot more from the Waimea Bowling Club in the near future.