Home' Advocate Communications : Fiordland Advocate 13 March 2009 Contents Page 6 | 13 March, 2009
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WHAT THE RABBIT SAW ...
PO Box 251
Te Anau 9640
Once upon a time there was
an airport at Manapouri. It had
minimal facilities but it had
passenger planes both large
and small and locals could fly on
regular services to Queenstown
Nowadays a flash airport has been
built but, alas, there are no plane
services for passengers. Instead of
paying to travel in a plane we now
have to pay for an airport with no
Let’s rename it – Clayton’s Airport.
The villagers of Sulphur Bay first
tasted Coca-Cola in 1942.
American GIs had come to their
home in Tanna (part of the then New
Hebrides, now Vanuatu) to build
airfields, roads, bridges, medical
centres and jetties.
The US war effort had brought
unimagined luxuries and technology
The villagers got scrub-cutting jobs
that paid real money and the military
quartermasters were generous with
goodies from the PX store.
The local people were mightily
impressed with their glimpse of the
When the war was over the
Americans and their seemingly
endless supply of trucks, jeeps,
medicine, cigarettes, chocolate and
The people of Sulphur Bay were
Bush medicine, roasted fruitbats and
steamed yams just weren’t the same.
Wanting the aeroplanes, the
Americans and their coveted cargo
back, they hacked mock airstrips out
of their farms, constructed bamboo
terminal buildings and wooden decoy
aircraft and even marched around
their black-sand parade ground in
improvised US uniforms.
They built control towers from
bamboo and festooned them with
vine aerials, all to tempt the expected
American planes from the skies.
They held regular religious
ceremonies beseeching the gift-
givers to return, but the cargo
never did come back.
Visitors to Sulphur Bay today see
a band of US-uniformed cargo
cult devotees who meet on their
“airfield” every February 15 to
renew their eternal hope that one
day a plane will land.
They still believe.
Moral: It may look ever so much
like an airport, but without any
planes, it’s just a rectangle of dirt
and a prayer.
Last week I walked from the
industrial area (Te Anau) to the
Caltex Garage and thought how
nice the houses, lawns and open
areas looked. Well mown and tidy.
Then, when I got to the main
road and saw the untidy empty
block next to the Village Inn and
the main entrance to Te Anau, I
thought what a disappointment
to our town. Cannot the owner
be made to tidy this up? Can the
council employ a contractor to tidy
this up and send the account to
It is very close to becoming a fire
hazard (at least it is close to the
When I arrived here over eight
years ago, the big local moan
was the building of the Events
Centre. The negative talk about
that project, which wasn’t built
with ratepayers’ money I might
add, left me rather puzzled as the
hall at the time certainly wasn’t
up to scratch. I’m delighted the
upgrade continued because our
new medical centre would not
have achieved half the fundraising
it has got, had the Events Centre
not been upgraded.
Then the next big moan was
the monorail. I can remember
attending the meeting and feeling embarrassed
that the criticism of that proposal to the
presenters was more like a lynch mob mentality
by the local business people than an idea to be
tossed around for discussion.
I had come from Dunedin where we had a mayor
who was reluctant to progress the city during her
reign. The Dunedin people are now having to pay
the price of a stand-still city by contributing to a
stadium that should have been built back in the
early 1990s at half the cost.
Some may say that the airport is ahead of its
time but one day, not too far down the track, we
will be grateful for the foresight of those who
It seems rather ironic one of the very reasons
we moved to Te Anau was the cheaper rates.
Eight years ago we were paying $1800 in rates
in Dunedin as opposed to $1040 in Te Anau. To
date the difference is still the same so what have
we got to moan about?
When central and local government get involved
in business it usually comes at a cost to the long
suffering tax and ratepayers. Our local example,
the Bruce Brown International Airport (named
after the past chairman of our community
council who purchased the site) is a fine
Another, now thankfully shelved Discovery
Centre, touted as boosting NZ’s GDP by tens of
millions (oh yeah!) annually would be another
disaster particularly for Te Anau businesses.
To be viable the centre would need to become
a “one stop shop” and aggressively sell
refreshments, souvenirs, excursions and
accommodation all at the expense of existing Te
A good example of government in competition
with existing business is the free Internet at the
library. Am I the only one sick of the hoards of
backpackers using our library as a drop in centre
to check their e-mails and print off reams of full
colour pages while across the road the Wash N
Surf Internet is empty?
And to add insult to injury, I know of a Te
Anau ratepayer who was asked by library staff
to vacate his seat at a computer to let an
aforementioned backpacker use the equipment.
KEVIN J MURDOCH
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