We know Okareka is a place that's very special to those of us who live here. It’s also really special to those who visit, and summer is a time when we experience an influx of visitors to our community.
It’s a time to reflect on the roles we all have as guardians of this place – alongside our local iwi Tuhourangi and the Te Arawa Lakes Trust (as owners of the lake bed) who have the long connection with Okareka over many centuries – and to acknowledge the phenomenal efforts of so many of our local residents and volunteers.
Always at the risk of leaving some critical people and groups out, have a think about:
- The thriving native bird populations on the lake and in the bush, and the healthy clumps of mistletoe – due to the ongoing work of LandCare Okareka trapping, weeding and planting, and the similar efforts of Forest and Bird and the Rotorua Botanical Society in the Tikitapu Reserve. All these groups are supported by the Bay of Plenty Regional Council and the Department of Conservation who continue to show strong support for community efforts.
- A rural fire service, second to none, who are not only on hand for fire emergencies but also deal with traffic accidents, slips and fallen trees (among other things) – and it’s made up of local volunteers from our community.
- A local tennis club providing fantastic opportunities for young and old, with local investment over the last few years resulting in an outstanding playing surface and now a new clubrooms.
- Walking tracks (some a bit worse for wear just at the moment) that provide locals and visitors alike with brilliant outdoor experiences – put in place and maintained on the backs of community volunteers.
- Our community hall, providing a home for our local pre-school, and a venue for local events – and the sometimes unsung efforts that go into its ongoing upkeep and bookings
- Our stunning campgrounds that provide a little slice of paradise to visitors and locals – and provide revenue for our community to keep maintaining and developing our assets – and they’re managed by just a few special people. We continue to see our local yacht race at New Year on the lake – a highlight for many, and carefully and professionally organised to provide this to our young and old.
From a LOCA perspective, we want to get it right by supporting all these local initiatives where we can and we want to do better in this regard. And as Committee we’ve been focused on several other key priorities:
- Working hard with Bay of Plenty Regional Council politicians and staff throughout the winter and spring. We've seen a temporary pumping solution put in place but probably as importantly have seen the communication channels opened wide from the Council to the community. There's a way to go before a permanent solution is locked down but we're talking and at the table working together.
- Starting the planning for the inevitable reinstatement and repair work for those areas damaged by high lake levels.
- Providing a submission to the Rotorua Lakes Council on its spatial plan – highlighting the importance of very close engagement with the local community before proposing changes.
- Working in partnership with the Lakes Community Board on a number of initiatives – and again, their work is largely unseen but the work of those elected members Phil Thomas, Jim Stanton, Nick Chater and Fred Stevens for the District’s lakes has been tireless.
- Putting on a social event for the community (partly to get people to come to a special general meeting but are now committed to doing more); we’ve tried hard to engage more through our Facebook page, emails and the website; we’ve supported the Pre-School Xmas party and continue to publish the newsletter. And there’s more!
Once again, I’d like to thank the LOCA members – it’s takes time and effort from all involved but it’s always done with good humour and a sense of purpose and pride. And the engagement and communication has been relentlessly positive, collaborative and constructive – something our community is increasingly known for.
And as a group we’d like to thank all our other groups and individuals who do so much – and to encourage others to get involved where they can by attending working days, making submissions on issues of interest, voting at the AGM, engaging on Facebook etc. It’s fun and builds a sense of place and connection.