Royal Oak : One year on from the Anniversary Weekend floods

When Hillsboro Bowling Club and Onehunga Bowling Club merged back in September 2017, the members of the newly-named Royal Oak Bowls had a dream … a dream to create a covered bowls facility at the former Onehunga Bowling Club site in the Auckland suburb of Royal Oak.

Over 5 years later, after unimaginable road blocks (or should we say ‘roof blocks’) seemingly continued to thwart the realisation of that dream, the newly built roof and artificial green was ready to open last year at 6;00pm on Friday 27th January 2023.

But there was one more ‘roof block’ to come.  A big one.

It started raining in Auckland … and didn’t stop.  Auckland was to be super-drenched with over 400mm (15 inches) of rain that weekend … six times the average for the whole of January, creating the wettest January in Auckland since records were begun in 1962.

And by the scheduled ribbon-cutting time for the new Royal Oak roof at 6:00pm on the Friday, the surrounding drains and creeks of the surrounding suburbs had simply given up expelling the torrents into the king tide, and instead backed up through the lowlands … including the greens at Royal Oak.  The new carpet under the new roof was destroyed.

“We thought we were being pretty conservative installing drainage under and around the new green,” says Secretary/Manager of the club. Mike Priddy. “But nothing was going to cope with this downpour.”

It was devastating for the club.  “Our Club President, Gale Ward, had spent all day making sure that everything was going to be perfect for the 6 o’clock opening … from organising a powhiri to practising her whaikorero.”

Of course Royal Oak wasn’t the only bowling club affected.  Henderson, Browns Bay and Northcote were also left counting up the damage.  And although we didn’t know it at the time, the weather gods hadn’t finished … ten days later Cyclone Gabrielle was going to terrorize Gisborne and the Hawkes Bay, and leave the likes of Te Karaka, Poverty Bay, Wairoa, Bay View, Havelock North and Waipawa Bowling Clubs picking up the pieces.

“In a way, we were ‘lucky’, says Mike.  “We rang FieldTurf, and they were able to get on to remediating the green almost immediately.  We had to fix and resurface the base, and replace the carpet, but something over a month later we were back in business, and able to enjoy the new facility.”

And what a facility it is … becoming the 5th roof in the greater Auckland area alongside Pukekohe, Orewa, New Lynn and Remuera (and soon to be joined by more).

“The members love it,” says Alastair McKenzie, Bowls Development Officer at Royal Oak. “One of the things we’ve found is that it isn’t just a wet weather venue … they’ve also been playing under the roof on the hot summer days to escape the sun.”

“Unsurprisingly, we’re attracting new members.  But it’s our corporate functions and our casual membership that has really, well ‘gone through the roof’.  Neighbouring clubs are finding that it’s a complementary facility … where they can play in inclement weather or in the off-season.”

“The club is now what life members Gary Fleming of Onehunga and Grant Goodwin of Hillsboro imagined when they found themselves chatting about potential amalgamation back in March 2017,” observes Alastair.  “It’s been a while getting there.”

“But as they say, good things take time.”