Wairoa : Recovering from a breach of trust

December 2, 2022

The Wairoa Bowling Club is one of those bowling clubs that we really need to stay open … the bowling world cant afford for it to close.

The reason for that is simple.

There are no other bowling clubs in Wairoa.  So bowlers would have to go elsewhere.  Unfortunately, ‘elsewhere’ is a long, long way away.  Either 100km away to the north to one of the bowling clubs in Gisborne, or 100km away to the Bay View Bowling Club in Napier in the south.

100km is a long way to go for a roll-up or for a game of bowls.  And frankly would be a bit of a showstopper for Wairoans wanting to play the game.  Bowls would die in Wairoa.

It’s therefore been sad to hear that the Wairoa Bowling Club struggled recently with (let’s call it) ‘an unauthorised use of club funds’, which put them in such a precarious financial position, that they contemplated closure.

But the good news is that they’ve managed to get over the incident and move on.

A team of members, spearheaded by Graham Fitzpatrick, Donna Smith, Kevin Stevenson and Vern Withey, have got the club back on its feet again, and are ready to attack the future.

“We’ve only got 21 members,” says Vice-President & Treasurer, Ven Withey, “But we’ve got another two more that are keen to join.”

What’s more, the club is coming into its prime recruitment season when for the 15 weeks leading up to, and after Christmas, the ‘mercantile’ is held every Wednesday evening … it’s business house bowls playing Bowls3Five, and the businesses in Wairoa lap up the opportunity for the socialising roll-ups.

“We get 60 or more people here for the evening,” says Vern.  “And we have come to expect a few of them to take the game up more permanently.”

Although a small club in terms of membership, Wairoa’s a large club in terms of greenspace.

The club has two greens lovingly overseen by Denis (‘with one ‘n’!’) Francois.  Denis has been with the club since 1985, so by now he knows every blade of grass and every leaf of weed in both greens,

“In fact, we had three greens until recently,” Denis says, “But part of our recovery plan was selling the third green to the neighbours ... we hadn’t used it for years anyway.”

In Auckland, the dollars received for selling a 1600 square metre green would set up a club forever.  But in Wairoa, not so much.  In fact just enough to pay some of the bills.

The remaining two natural greens at Wairoa are cherished assets.  Particularly with the gradual trend towards artificial elsewhere.

“We have a great climate here in Wairoa,” says Denis, “But unfortunately it’s also a great climate for all sorts of pests, weeds, diseases and disorders we don’t want to see in the greens.  It’s a lot of work to keep them up to standard.”

But the upkeep of the greens is worth it.  Both members and visitors love playing on the grass.

“We don’t have any particularly special tournaments here,” says Vern, “But when visitors come they get well fed and watered.  And when we travel away, the club punches well above its weight.”

“Both factors have made us determined to not only stay open, but to get stronger,  Despite the recent setback.”

Such setbacks where clubs let their guard down, and their trust is exploited, happen from time to time in sports club environments.  They can occur when club members confuse behaving by the rules as mistrusting your mates.

Sadly, when breeches of trust do occur, they are more often than not swept under the carpet.  So we get the mistaken impression they rarely occur.

“My message to other bowling clubs is that the rules are there for a purpose,” says Vern. “They’re not there to put you off-side with your mates.”

The Wairoa Bowling Club is to be commended for not only being open about the issue, but working their way through the issue and creating a new way forward.

Well done!