90th anniversary club's last on riverbank site

LEE-ANNE EDWARDS
Last updated 10:39 11/12/2012
HUTcroquetweb
Chess on the lawn: Tony Borra, left, and Shaun Theobold were involved in a close-fought duel on the greens when we visited last week.
HUTcroqoldweb
Women only: Members of the Waimarie Croquet Club at Riddiford Park in 1925. Like all New Zealand croquet clubs, Waimarie was a strictly female preserve for many years. The first male office holder was J Booth (treasurer) in 1976

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It is fitting that tea and cake will be served at the anniversary celebrations for Waimarie Croquet Club this weekend.

For it was over a cup of tea that the idea for the club was suggested by Mrs Catherine Strand, the Mayoress of Lower Hutt, 90 years ago.

Not one to muck about, Mrs Strand got things moving - a public meeting was held on November 5, 1922, a committee was elected on November 15 and the club's opening was on December 5.

Mrs Strand declared the lawns open and played the first ball.

Initially based at Hutt Rec, the first two lawns were just inside the Myrtle St entrance and at the southern end, with the club offered the use of the cricket clubrooms.

Later, the club was given two lawns together and the use of an old tin shed from a hockey club on the site of the current grandstand.

In 1925, lawns were made available in Riddiford Park and a small pavilion was built next to the Riddiford Baths. In the early 1950s the club was forced to move from the park to make way for a road and the new War Memorial Library.

Help came from David Ewen, who offered land he owned near Melling Bridge to the city council as a reserve, with the proviso that some of it be used for croquet lawns for the Waimarie Club.

The club's records show that he intended the club to stay there "for all time".

However, the city council has no record of that proviso.

Whatever David Ewen intended, the Hutt River's propensity to flood has put paid to that, and given Waimarie its biggest challenge since it was founded.

While this year also marks the club's 60th on its current grounds its time there is almost at an end. The six carefully tended lawns and clubhouse must be gone by August 16 2015 - the latest group to be displaced as part of the Greater Wellington Regional Council's stopbank upgrade.

Waimarie, like Boulcott Golf Club before it, is no stranger to the damage a Hutt River in flood can do.

In 2005 more than two metres of water inundated the courts, bringing down fences and dumping a thick covering of silt.

The flood was so severe that water went through the club rooms to a level several centimetres above the window sills.

Discussion has been going on with GWRC and Hutt City Council for a number of years, club captain Tony Warrington said.

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"There's still a lot to do. We're in a three-way partnership with the councils but we won't know until early next year what money they will have available to help us move." After viewing numerous sites around the city, the group is looking at relocating to the former Taita Bowling Club. They will share it with a darts club already in residence and "potentially" another group.

The club thinks it will need to raise about $250,000 to level the land so it is suitable for croquet lawns and to pay for drainage, irrigation, fencing, grassing and work on the clubhouse, Mr Warrington said.

"Whatever way you look at it, it's a massive amount of money."

The councils have committed to helping with the work and project development but even so, the club "has to find substantially more money than the other two combined."

Preparations need to start next year if the grounds are to be ready for 2015, Mr Warrington said.

The club has more than 80 members aged from under 12 to over 80. Club sessions are held six days a week with members also turning out on Sundays for practice and self- organised games.

"On a player per square metre usage we would have the highest use of any sports ground," said club member Mike Beardsell.

The grounds are also used to host national and international competitions, including the World Champs in 2002.

It's possible that the move to Taita could result in an even better facility, Mr Warrington said.

"Looking on the bright side it is an opportunity to develop a first class facility, if we can meet the challenge of funding it."

- Hutt News

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