1950s were a golden era for Waikanae and its beach camp

EDITORIAL

Gisborne Holdings Ltd has made its first major announcement as the owner of businesses transferred to it last year by the council — an $8 million expansion of the Waikanae Beach Top 10 Holiday Park that will turn it into a five-star accommodation facility.

Tomorrow’s editorial will take a look at implications of this development, while today’s takes a walk down memory lane.

The Waikanae Beach campsite has played a big part in Gisborne’s life for 90 years, having been set up in 1927 at the request of the Auckland Automobile Association.

The Waikanae area itself has a colourful history that is linked with the presence of the beach camp.

A concrete pavilion with changing facilities — based on the design of an English pavilion at Bexhill — and a 600-foot sea wall were built in the 1950s thanks to the efforts of the Waikanae Beach Improvement Society, and handed over to Gisborne Borough Council.

The ’50s were a golden era for the camp and Waikanae itself. The “30,000 Club”, an energetic group that had the goal of increasing Gisborne’s population to that figure, ran regular beach carnivals there. In that pre-television era, large crowds were attracted to events like beauty carnivals and to hear national entertainers.

There was a tradition of local young people taking a tent to Waikanae over the Christmas and New Year period, so they could be close to the action.

The appearance of the pavilion declined over the years and the area became a lot less popular with locals.

The pavilion was anathema to the late Hink Healey, Gisborne’s then mayor, who in November 1987 managed to get a motion through to have it demolished. No sooner was it carried, late in the day, than Mr Healey nodded to the contractor — who left the council room and started work early the next morning before any preservationists could come to the rescue of the building.

The area received a major aesthetic boost in May last year with the opening of the new Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club building. The campground upgrade will fit in well with this and the popular Oneroa walk and cycleway.

Gisborne Holdings Ltd has made its first major announcement as the owner of businesses transferred to it last year by the council — an $8 million expansion of the Waikanae Beach Top 10 Holiday Park that will turn it into a five-star accommodation facility.

Tomorrow’s editorial will take a look at implications of this development, while today’s takes a walk down memory lane.

The Waikanae Beach campsite has played a big part in Gisborne’s life for 90 years, having been set up in 1927 at the request of the Auckland Automobile Association.

The Waikanae area itself has a colourful history that is linked with the presence of the beach camp.

A concrete pavilion with changing facilities — based on the design of an English pavilion at Bexhill — and a 600-foot sea wall were built in the 1950s thanks to the efforts of the Waikanae Beach Improvement Society, and handed over to Gisborne Borough Council.

The ’50s were a golden era for the camp and Waikanae itself. The “30,000 Club”, an energetic group that had the goal of increasing Gisborne’s population to that figure, ran regular beach carnivals there. In that pre-television era, large crowds were attracted to events like beauty carnivals and to hear national entertainers.

There was a tradition of local young people taking a tent to Waikanae over the Christmas and New Year period, so they could be close to the action.

The appearance of the pavilion declined over the years and the area became a lot less popular with locals.

The pavilion was anathema to the late Hink Healey, Gisborne’s then mayor, who in November 1987 managed to get a motion through to have it demolished. No sooner was it carried, late in the day, than Mr Healey nodded to the contractor — who left the council room and started work early the next morning before any preservationists could come to the rescue of the building.

The area received a major aesthetic boost in May last year with the opening of the new Waikanae Surf Lifesaving Club building. The campground upgrade will fit in well with this and the popular Oneroa walk and cycleway.

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