Stitching a practical solution for Waihi flags
GO Waihi has managed to keep the Heart of Gold flags flying constantly in Waihi for 11 years until recently. GO Waihi is an incorporated society governed by a voluntary committee that manages a paid coordinator. It was established in 1997 with the mission to promote the Waihi area as an attractive and unique place to live, work and visit.
Hauraki District Council has withdrawn funding from GO Waihi because the incorporated society has not signed an agreement the council sent them after their Long Term Plan process. The GO Waihi committee is concerned about the terms of the agreement as they felt it was not within the terms of their constitution so have been attempting to negotiate a suitable agreement.
With no funding coming in and limp, torn flags in the CBD GO Waihi’s Chairperson Sara Howell put her head together with Co-ordinator Brian Gentil and they have hatched a plan to restore the damaged flags to their poles.
Waihi locals will remember Sara from her haberdashery business The Habby Shop, which Sara ran in the town for many years. She is well known in town for her helpful attitude. Sara volunteers for Community Patrols and gives up nights at home in front of the telly to patrol Waihi’s streets. She’s a ‘crafty’ lady in more ways than one and after Brian Gentil arranged for the torn shabby flags that had taken a pummeling from winter’s winds to be taken down he did a count to see how many could be reused then realised because of the damage there weren’t going to be enough to get the flags flying throughout Waihi again.
The solution has come with thread, sewing machines and a can-do attitude. After Brian had the flags taken down he laid all the flags out and started to assess the damage. It was while he was showing Sara the damaged flags that they realised a good solution that could save thousands would be to repair rather than replace. While some of the flags were shredded beyond repair and others were ripped Sara felt some handy sewing machine work could make a difference and give some of the flags another chance to fly.
Sara enlisted the help of her friend and seamstress extraordinaire Aileen Willett and together they got busy with a sewing bee at Aileen’s home. Between them, they have managed to repair 32 ripped and torn flags. Add those to the flags that are still in good condition and its all GO for Waihi’s flags!
Now that the flags have been fixed and strengthened GO Waihi has put in a service request for Hauraki District Council to fix a number of flagpoles that also need some work to ensure they are safe. When the maintenance has been completed then Waihi’s Heart of Gold flags will be able to fly proudly again.
GO Waihi held a meeting on September 5th to inform Waihi business people that they had not signed a new agreement Hauraki District Council had sent them because they are unhappy with the terms of the agreement and the changes to their funding, which they understood was through a targeted rate specifically for their services. Hauraki District Council had not consulted them about a change to the targeted rate and despite a good number of written submissions to the recent Long Term Plan asking the council to either keep the funding at its current level or increase it the councillors made the decision to reduce funding to the town promotion societies by 25% this year and a further 25% next year. Although Waihi has a larger population than Paeroa, GO Waihi receives less funding than the Paeroa promotion group and does a lot of work to bring in extra funds to cover costs for events they have instigated or looked after for years. The group says they are unhappy with the way the process has been managed. The new agreement they are expected to sign in order to receive 25% less funding this year alone would involve a more district-wide approach which expects them to promote council initiatives GO Waihi feels are the role of Economic Development staff at the council rather than an incorporated society with one paid staff member assisted by voluntary members.
At the meeting on September 5th members of the public said they wanted an explanation from Council about the targeted rate. Three former councillors attended the meeting and were adamant the funds GO Waihi receives are via targeted rates which should go back to ratepayers if GO Waihi does not receive them.
Councillor Max McLean, who is also a council representative on GO Waihi has organised a meeting so people can hear what is happening to the targeted rate from Hauraki District Council’s CEO Langley Cavers and Mayor John Tregidga at the Waihi Memorial Supper Room from 5.30 pm tonight, Tuesday, September 18.
Sara Howell says, “I was there from the beginning of GO Waihi and don’t want the years of hard work to be undone. I’m disappointed with Hauraki District Council’s process and would like answers that make sense.”
Photos: GO Waihi - Sara Howell and Aileen Willett stitching Waihi's flags together.