Knowing our ways


    Welcome to Waiheke, to the beginning of summer and to beaches, hilltops and village communities all swept clean by winter storms and verdant with new growth and roadsides full of wildflowers (at least for a little longer).

    For island afficianados, there are still heartstopping views round every corner, ducklings being shepherded across the road by anxious householders and godwits and dotterels on our beaches.

    However, we’re also a place where the affairs of the big, wide world are reflected in a small-is-beautiful scenario of cohesive community life. Think globally, act locally is stitched into our DNA and here are a few words to the wise.

    We are the community that persuaded Australian giant Countdown to stop handing out single-use plastic bags a couple of years ago, and we’d like to be remembered for that. Carrying a cotton bag at all times will save embarrassment at the checkout.

    Juggling awkward purchases without one is an option, but looking round vaguely to see if there is a pile of useful cardboard boxes won’t always work. Piling everything back into the shopping trolley and unloading it into the back of the station wagon is a fall-back position.

    Though messy when you get it home, at least you will have privacy to sort it out.

    Do not forget to surrender all bags early as a signal to the staff member at the checkout that they do not have to offer you a bag, or, worse, have to get them to repack an offending plastic bag when they have half-filled it.

    There is a bit of extra edge on this issue currently since the Guardian Weekly unleashed statistics about micro particles of decaying plastic raining down on us from the skies in every corner of the globe and plastic detritus exceeding the total fish biomass of the world’s oceans.

    On Waiheke, examine every plastic lid before discarding it. It might be recyclable and you are expected to know. At public venues, be prepared for someone to step forward and help you politely with this distinction. Waiheke is still the community that opted for near-as-dammit Zero Waste principles and reduced its waste stream to landfill by 60 percent ten years ago.

    If we know who formed the government by the weekend, beware over-confidence in judging your audience for political discussion by conventional socio-economic stereotypes.

    Labour and Green voters dominated polling on the island last month and when it came to a contest for and against a marina in Matiatia a few years ago, a barefoot brigade of our richest and finest pitched in handsomely to stop the business venture.

    According to the Census, a third of our houses are technically unoccupied. Although cardboard box huts are not normal on the island (see story this week), we are making up new ways to deal with a chronic housing and rental shortage and regretting the loss of young families as living and working here gets more difficult.

    The fact that you don’t see us blaring horns or marching with rude banners in front of double-decker buses doesn’t mean it’s safe to say how convenient you have found this weird way of sightseeing that involves peering over garden fences and brushing through treetops.

    We will appal you with stories of tree chopping and slaughter of endangered geckos and our leafy-lined roads won’t be here next time you want a summer escape from a car-ridden city that is already denuded of a third of its trees by eight years of ‘light’ government handling of environmental protections.

    Fortunately our visitors have responded better to lengthening ferry queues than residents, and a new and charming visitor activity of large-scale sauntering on sideroads has developed.

    Half-hourly ferries have filled in any hope of such casualness on the main arterial roads, however, and determined pedestrians on Oneroa’s zebra crossing need to be aware of ferry sailing times to avoid misunderstandings with late-leaving ferry users.

    Likewise, drivers need to be aware that a flock of holidaymakers admiring the view can turn and troop by twos onto the street while continuing to argue about what to do next.

    “All God’s children,” as a former colleague frequently said of such Waiheke phenomenon.
    No matter what, by Sunday, the temptation to a make a spectacle of yourself with a meercat impersonation while tapping your fingers and waiting for coffee in our busy cafés and restaurants will have dissolved.

    You’ll have spotted the view and sat back in your seat to enjoy the ride with the rest of us. Liz Waters

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