…and finally, a good place to stay…

…a small town whose population increases from 3000 to 10,000 for  a couple of weeks over Christmas and New Year, every year, but outside this peak Christmas period offers a lively, diverse community, every outdoor activity you can think of , and outstanding places to stay, to eat, and to explore: Whaingaroa-Raglan

As part of Tanya’s recovery from her knee surgery, we spent five lovely days in this small town on the coast of the North Island, 48 km west of Hamilton.  We stayed in a beautiful apartment , one of three created as part of an old Portland Cement silo on the wharf , with curved floor to ceiling windows looking over the harbour.

We enjoyed excellent food in five different cafes – especially Solscape, with its plant-based menu and stunning views of the sea and coast, and Rock-It, with its unique Vietnamese-influenced original menu.  We enjoyed revisiting Soul Shoes and Tony Sly’s Pottery Gallery on the wharf , and eating our fish’n’chips meal at the Wharf Cafe.  We were impressed by the number of interesting shops selling quality locally made clothes and crafts in the town centre.

Of course, like most towns in Aotearoa, Raglan fails to honour its history- more than 800 years of history in this case.  Its English name comes from the first Lord Raglan, who commanded British troops during the Crimean War….. Its current  Maori name, much older, is Whaingaroa, meaning “the long pursuit”.  We saw  nothing in the main street to acknowledge the area’s long Maori history or its Maori name.

But there is a good display of recent Maori history immediately inside the door to  the Museum, which is in the same building as the Visitors’ Centre.  This opening display includes the gifting of the land by  Te Awaitaia  to Pakeha in the 1830s, and the successful occupation of the golf course led by Eva Rickard after thirty years of government refusal to return land seized for an aerodrome during WWII and turned into a golf course afterwards. 

Earlier history of Maori settlement is well acknowledged, particularly for the area known as Te Horea, and there is an extensive collection of artefacts gifted by one Pakeha family who have carefully gathered them from their farm land over the years.

Currently, outside the museum, the only features acknowledging Maori we found  were a small cemetery in the reserve across the river from the town, where three headstones and an information board feature Te Awaitaia, and two modern sculptures at the entry to the motor camp there.

 But when we visited the library to seek further information we were delighted to meet the Library Manager, Michael Edmonds, a direct descendant of Ngāti Māhanga chief Te Awaitaia who welcomed the first Pakeha settlers to the area.  Michael shared many stories with us for an hour or more, and talked about his hopes for persuading Council to enhance the presentation of the area’s long history around the town. 

There are several strong marae, featuring health, training and employment opportunities,  on the road out of the town towards Mount Karioi.  Also there are, apparently, strong Maori programmes in local schools, and many supportive Pakeha, so hopefully in time the town will reflect more of its history.

And, of course, there is the outstanding Xtreme Zero Waste rubbish collection centre, which continues to reduce what is sent to landfill from this area (down to less than 25% now) by promoting a plastic-bag-free town, and a full re-use and re-cycle programme and shop,  which also provides employment for local people. 

See more here and be inspired: http://xtremezerowaste.org.nz/

This is a proud and promising town…and of course the beaches along this coast are much loved by surfers- especially the world-famous left-hand break at Manu Bay…

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