Riwaka. The bowling club that nearly wasn’t. Originally published 2019

December 1, 2021

The Riwaka Bowling Club is still with us.  Just.

At a special general meeting in August last year, club members voted by 9 to 7 to keep the club open.  It doesn’t get much closer than that.  And had the vote gone the other way, a wonderful greenspace would have been lost to the Riwaka community forever.

The club wasn’t saved by the crowdfunding of 39,323 Kiwis as happened up the coast at Awaroa Bay.  Instead it was ‘crowdrallying’ – the local Riwaka community got in behind the club and its 9 yaysaying members to overcome the objections of the 7 naysayers.

From there the club’s gone on from strength to strength.  Well, perhaps more accurately, weakness to strength.

Riwaka now has 60+ full-playing members, and a further 30+ social members.

Unfortunately a constitutional wrinkle has meant that none of the new members can yet take up formal roles on club committees until they’ve done a 6-month probationary membership.  So in the meantime until the next general meeting, the club is being run by a troika of three ‘original’ members

“That hasn’t caused any problems,” explains Vice-President Pauline Sutherland, who has also put her hand up for the titles of Secretary and Bar Manager.  “We’re just the ones with the job titles … everyone’s still pitching in and helping.  No one’s worried about who’s called what or who does what.”

The ‘titles’ have been shared with two fellow original club members  – Vince Bloomfield who has remained the Club President, and Bev Hunt who has become the Treasurer, the Tournament Convenor and the Match Convenor!

But new ‘untitled’ Riwakans have been just as important to the club’s revival.

“We wouldn’t be here today if it wasn’t for the efforts of Brendan Alborn,” says Pauline.  “When the survival of the club was threatened, Brendan was instrumental in mustering the support of the locals.  Today he’s doing a fantastic job as our club cheerleader … the marketing, the Facebook page, dealing with the media , and more.”

“He’s being helped in the communication space by Nick Fritz who has become out texting expert.”

Local professional gardener, Hayden Smith, has added another string to his horticultural bow and become the club’s greenkeeper.  “He’s as keen as mustard,” says Pauline, “and learning heaps about making our green the best.  The other greenkeepers in the bay have been acted as fabulous mentors.”

And there’s lots more volunteers lining up for planned working bees.

“We’ve got the green to core in the off-season,” says Pauline.  “The trees around the perimeter need trimming.  And the roof of the clubrooms needs painting.  The aim is to not only revive the bowling club, but create a gathering place for the whole Riwaka community.”

It’s a concept that many communities around the country are embracing.  Sick of losing their post offices, their banks, their retail shops, and their heritage buildings, communities are saying ‘enough is enough’ and conserving and preserving the treasures they still have.  Bowling clubs like Riwaka are being viewed as the village squares of yesteryear – the heart of the community.

“Bowling clubs are ideally placed to fulfil this role,” says Pauline.  “Clubrooms invariably already have the facilities for community get-togethers.  The bowling green – and the opportunity to have a roll-up – provide an added dimension as a catalyst for people to get to know each other.”

The town that is renowned as the gateway to the Abel Tasman National Park, the Kahurangi National Park and the Riwaka Resurgence, may now become renowned as the town that refused to put its 72 year old bowling club out to pasture.

Good on you Riwaka!

-Rob Davis