Last week I was called by one of the Sunday newspapers to list my top ten NZ beaches, as Associate Minister of Tourism.
There’s a lot of choice, but for me there’s no doubt: Little Shoal Bay, Northcote is my top NZ beach. You might think this sounds overly parochial, and I freely admit I’m biased. That doesn’t worry me at all, and I’ll tell you why.
Little Shoal Bay is right at the heart of life for people who live in the area south of Onewa Rd that takes in Northcote and Birkenhead Points. True, it won’t win any awards for sand coverage, but the views past the moored yachts to the Harbour Bridge and Auckland city make this a special spot. Most importantly though, it’s a place where people of all ages, especially young families can enjoy the outdoors in the heart of the city.
For me it’s a place that I can walk to from my home, forget about Parliament, and focus on family time. Shorts and jandals are the uniform here, no need for a tie. Suits me fine.
Just back from the bay is the wonderful open space of Dudding park, and of course Le Roy’s Bush – native bush walks in the middle of town. Superb.
So for me, as for many others in our area, it’s a very important and special place. Local people over many years have taken important steps to secure Little Shoal Bay’s future, and for that we have a lot to be grateful for.
Local families also really value the Families in Parks programme which is a regular summer feature at Little Shoal Bay. It’s funded by North Shore City Council (NSCC) and provided by the Birkenhead Community Facilities Trust. Jill Nerheny does a fantastic job for our area and has strong support for the work she does.
Because of its place as a local treasure, Little Shoal Bay has always aroused high emotions in the community. Anything that happens there is contentious.
As such, I would simply urge both the Community Board and the NSCC to focus on the bigger picture for our area, and the issues that local people really care about. There is no appetite for a 20km/hr speed limit down Maritime Terrace, through Little Shoal Bay – there’s so many judder bars it’s unnecessary.
On a not-unrelated note: I’m not taking sides in the current row over the location of the Birkenhead Community Facilities Trust office, as that is not my role. What I do know though is that the voters always expect politicians, whether local or national, to focus on the issues that they, the public, care about. So rather than a flame war with no real winners, I’d urge the Community Board and Council to settle this current issue quickly and whatever the outcome, to then focus on progressing projects that really matter to locals – maybe like upgrading the Birkenhead pool surrounds or resanding Little Shoal Bay. Now that really would be something "worth the candle".