Unless you’re a Nelsonian or otherwise in the know, it’s unlikely you’ve ever heard of Māpua, let alone visited the small settlement on the edge of Tasman Bay.
It’s one of the many tiny geographical jewels throughout New Zealand … like Mangonui, Matakana and Matapouri … places where it’s nice to ‘hang’, to soak up the vibe, to sample the community’s fare, and be tempted by the local artisanry. The only threat is that they become ‘over-loved’ … and more people, more cars and more development suffocate what made them so attractive in the first place.
Māpua locals are looking warily at that possibility. But there’s also an upside.
The arrival of outsiders in their slice of paradise is also feeding membership of the local Māpua Bowling Club, and starting from a founding membership of 8 back in 1927, the Club now has at least 25 full-playing members, another 15 or so social non-affiliated, club-only players, as well as 25 or so casuals who turn up for Monday evening roll-ups during the season.
“Like any club, we’ve lost members for various reasons,” observes Club President, Debbie Win, “But we’re adding more than we’re losing. Not only because the area is growing, but because we’re developing a reputation as a welcoming community club that not only enjoys bowls, but enjoys each other’s company. We don’t see-saw between opening and closing for a roll-up or a tournament, or opening for the summer and closing for the winter … members enjoy the Club all year round, with or without bowls.”
That’s just as well. Since the end of the summer playing season, the single green at Māpua has been out of action.
“We planed the green this year,” explains Assistant Greenkeeper, Murray Blanchet, “Not only did it need re-levelling but we had a lot of run-off at the edges. The centre was 33ml above the surrounding green. We called it Mt Māpua!”
“We ended up taking 45 cubic metres of dirt off. Fortunately we had 15 to 20 members down here doing the barrow-work directed by smart people with lasers.”
“We were also lucky that a local farmer was happy to have the dirt contaminated by years of spraying dumped on his land.”
“We’ve brought in cotula seed from the Stoke Bowling Club down the road,” adds Murray. “And the newly planed green’s just about ready to sow. That means it won’t be ready to play on until late October. We’ll miss the front of our season, but other clubs around the bay have offered their facilities meantime.”
Fortunately, the green will at least be back in action for the Club’s two signature tournaments.
Murray Blanchet shows off the cotula seed waiting for the green
“We have ‘The Roast’ in February every year,” says Sue England, Club Coach & Publicity Officer. “It’s an open mixed triples and we always have a waiting list to play.”
Traditionally, we brought in a pig on a spit for a lunch. A 60kg pig got a bit much, so we’ve toned it down to rolls of pork. For meat-lovers there’s still heaps of meat for lunch and raffles!”
The other popular ‘tournament’ is the Giggle Day.
“It’s really just a fun day open to women around the area,” says club stalwart, Margaret Busby. “We all dress up, and start the day with a glass of bubbly. It’s a day of silliness … bowling with the other hand, bowling through your legs, playing with two jacks, playing a joker and so on. There are spot prizes for anything and everything. If you’re really lucky, you’ll win the chance to sing ‘Happy Birthday’ or ‘The Wheels on the Bus’ solo in the middle of the green!”
“Even better, the men are in the kitchen all day!”
The Giggle Day reflects the culture at the Māpua Bowling Club. It’s a club where members enjoy each other’s company whether they’re playing bowls or not.
“We have a big firewood fundraiser every year,” says Club Welfare Officer, Maurie Daubney,” and everyone pitches in to help. One of our members, Denzil Stephenson is a farmer and supplies the trees. Dave Dillon cuts them down and a team from the Club trims, cuts and splits them into firewood to dry over summer in the paddock. We then use Arthur and Debbie’s truck to deliver loads at the beginning of winter.”
“We raise good money, and it’s a lot of fun working together.”
“We’re always on the lookout for new fundraising ideas though,” says Debbie. “Like I imagine every bowling club, there’s always things on our wish-list to do. And never enough money to do them.”
One thing’s for sure at Māpua, fundraising may be an issue, but ‘fun-raising’ certainly isn’t. The members of the club are experts!