• David Green (front) and Hamish Anderson at Castor Bay beach.

Looking out for Castor Bay

A chat with David Green and Hamish Anderson, President and Secretary, Castor Bay Ratepayers' and Residents' Association

David Green (President) and Hamish Anderson (Secretary) are two youngish folk who are playing a part in their community as leaders of their ratepayers' and residents' association in their home patch of Castor Bay. On the way to getting elected to the Devonport Takapuna Local Board, Channel Magazine publisher Aidan Bennett had the opportunity to connect with key players in various community groups in the local board area and discovered many people doing wonderful things and making big contributions. Often these community groups are run by older folk who have more time at their stage in life. Getting the younger sector engaged and involved is not always easy due to the busy lives they lead. He talked to David and Hamish in January about their roles with the Castor Bay Ratepayers' and Residents' Association (CBRRA), their plans, and the issues facing their little slice of paradise.

AIDAN BENNETT: How did you guys come to be involved with the Castor Bay Ratepayers' and Residents' Association?
I received an invitation to the CBRRA AGM in the letterbox so I thought I would take a look.  One of the life members Joe Barber made a speech with regards to having youngish input on the committee, looking directly at Hamish and I. How could we refuse?
HAMISH ANDERSON: I guess I’ve always been keen on doing my bit for the community, like mowing the berms near my house. After moving into Castor Bay nine years ago my wife and I ‘adopted’ a neglected council garden outside our house and started taking care of it. I also asked the Council to install a swimming pontoon at Castor Bay beach after seeing them elsewhere around Auckland. Shortly after that someone on the CBRRA committee asked me if I was interested in joining so I went along to a meeting to find out more. That was about four years ago and the rest is history!

AB: The 2019 AGM was held in November. Who were the others elected to the CBRRA committee?
  Stu Wilkie (Vice-President), Malcolm McLean (Treasurer), Chris Owen (also Chairman of Kennedy Park WWII Preservation Society), Nick Hewitt, Joe Barber, Peter Bartlett, Rosey Buchan, Ron Hinvest, Fiona Millar, Diane James and Ljubica Seadon. The only new face is Fiona, and that’s the perennial challenge for community groups like ours: finding new people willing to give up some time for the community.

AB: How long has the Castor Bay Ratepayers' and Residents' Association been in existence?
CBRRA was founded in 1938 which we think makes it one of the oldest groups of its type in Auckland. We’re proud of our history and it shows just how passionate people feel about living here – CBRRA life members Fiona Downes, Joe Barber, Peter Bartlett and Ken McKay have been key to our longevity; they’re the glue which has kept us going for 81 years.

AB: Being in the boomer category myself I am presuming that you guys are well south of that line and just youngsters. Can one of you comment on why you decided to get involved as younger folk?
I think it’s more about mindset than age. Sure, the older generation do tend to have more time available to put into these things, but I find that if you’ve got a bit of passion and pride in your community then you can find some time, even if it’s an hour or two each month - no matter how old you are. I’ve seen the average age of our committee reduce even since I joined four years ago, which probably reflects the changing demographic in Castor Bay, plus the greater visibility of CBRRA that us youngsters are bringing to the group. To get involved or to find out more visit you can our Facebook page by searching @CBRRA or get in touch with us at castorbayrra@gmail.com.

AB: What are the things that give you real satisfaction about being involved with CBRRA?
  We are making real progress on a number of topical issues: water quality, road safety, pest control and Kennedy Park to name a few. The Wairau Estuary pedestrian/cycle bridge was the culmination of decades of work from a number of community groups, with CBRRA’s former President Fiona Downes at the forefront.
HA: It’s important to deliver stuff in order to keep CBRRA relevant to Castor Bay locals. So advocating for things like better park and beach facilities – the pontoon and new toilet block, for example – making submissions to the Council and Local Board on behalf of Castor Bay locals and hosting public events like Neighbours' Day barbies go down well. More recently we’ve set up a Facebook page which has been gold in terms of boosting engagement with the community. The satisfaction comes from seeing the community respond positively and getting that feeling from a job well done.

AB: What are the things that are frustrating about being involved with the CBRRA?
As much progress as we make, we always want to progress faster. CBRRA has good relationships with the Local Board and Auckland Council but getting things done seems to be harder than it needs to be.
HA: The wheels of bureaucracy can turn slowly sometimes, and that can be frustrating when you’ve got a real community need, and little or no budget available. And sometimes the way Council processes work just doesn’t make sense. An example is that when CBRRA makes a submission to Council on behalf of our 90 or so member households, it’s counted as just one submission.

AB: David, as President, can you explain what the key function(s) of the CBRRA are?
CBRRA are the unofficial custodians of Castor Bay, looking out for the best interests of our residents. We also feel an obligation to ensure local ratepayers get their fair share from their rates contributions to Auckland Council and its CCOs – we’re under no illusions that areas south of the Harbour Bridge seem to do very well from North Shore ratepayers. No matter how big or small an issue or idea is, CBRRA is here to ensure we can enjoy the beauty of Castor Bay for decades to come.

AB: Water quality is obviously a hot topic. Is the CBRRA supporting the Milford WEEPS initiative, and if so, why?
Absolutely. Water quality at Castor Bay beach has been our number one priority for the past two years. While water quality is better at Castor Bay than the north end of Milford beach, we still have our fair share of local water issues, such as stormwater overflows into wastewater pipes in heavy rain, causing code browns at the beach.
HA: We are really concerned about the impact the Wairau outlet has on Castor Bay. While it’s important that CBRRA continues to have our own voice on this issue, we’re all working towards the same objective so we do support Milford WEEPS, and any other initiative or group with the same goal. One of our committee members Ljubica Seadon is our representative on Milford WEEPS. We’d also call out the great work being done by Council’s Safeswim programme led by Nick Vigar. There’s been massive strides made in understanding what’s in the water, identifying the source of contaminants and letting the community know when it’s safe to swim or not.

AB: Kennedy Park, being a jewel in the crown for the area, is obviously a focus for the CBRRA. Can you explain the potential and issues here for the community?
  Kennedy Park is one of our top five priorities and committee member Chris Owen is also the Chairman of Kennedy Park WWII Preservation Society which manages the gun emplacements and tunnels. There’s a feeling Kennedy Park is sometimes neglected in terms of attention and funds, compared to some other parks in the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board area. A big concern is obviously ongoing erosion of the cliff face and the preservation of the cliff top path. We also had a scrub fire recently as a result of fireworks so security can be an issue, as it is with any public place. One project we’re really looking forward to is the forthcoming restoration of the WWII barracks building which has the potential to provide a new community space.

AB: And Castor Bay’s beach is pretty special as well. Is the CBRRA advocating for future enhancements there?
Many people would say it’s great just the way it is! That said, we’re always seeking improvements to our beautiful beach and reserve, and these include things like dedicated recycling bins and BBQ facilities, as well as the recently completed toilet block refurbishment. One thing we definitely don’t want to lose are the trees, especially the massive old pohutukawa which local kids - and some parents too - have loved climbing in for decades. Sometimes we suffer from our own popularity and a lack of parking causes problems in surrounding streets on busy summer weekends so the more people understand the rules around not driving or parking on the beach and respecting boat trailer parking, the better.

AB: The environment is clearly a focus, as are pest-free initiatives. What has the CBRRA been doing in these areas in recent times or has plans to do?
This is another of our top priorities and our Vice-President Stu Wilkie leads this for CBRRA. We’re involved in the DTLB-wide pest-free initiative, and we’ve been able to supply locals with traps and advice on how to use them. We’ve seen good success in reducing the rat population, as evidenced by more native bird sightings in people’s gardens, which is awesome.
HA: Another initiative specific to Castor Bay is the restoration of the Braemar stream which runs from the Campbells Bay School community forest, under Peter Terrace, through the Braemar reserve and out to the beach. We’re partnering with Richard Hursthouse from Campbells Bay Urban Sanctuary and Council to rid the stream of pest plants, improve water quality and restore habitats for native plants and aquatic life. This will take some time to complete but we’re playing a long game!

AB: Organising community events is clearly a key focus of of the CBRRA. What events are planned for 2020?
Our big event is our annual Neighbours’ Day barbie to be held later in the summer. Later in the year we’ll host a meet the candidates night ahead of the general election, have our CBRRA AGM, and we usually partner with others to hold planting events, beach cleanups etc. We are always open to suggestions, one of which is a Castor Bay business owners/leaders event. Contact castorbayrra@gmail.com with your ideas or to get involved.

AB: David, complete the following… In 2020 the CBRRA’s goal is to…
DG: …
Keep delivering for Castor Bay. It would be nice to see some real progress on addressing the water quality issues from Wairau Creek and estuary. We’ll know we’ve succeeded when we increase Facebook followers and signed up members by 50%.

To get involved, or to just find out more, visit the Castor Bay Ratepayers' and Residents' Association Facebook page by searching @CBRRA or get in touch via email: castorbayrra@gmail.com.