OPINION: It's often claimed that when good Americans die, they go to Paris. I think when good Hamiltonions die, they go to Whangamata or the Coromandel or maybe The Mount.
It's that time of year when the coast is calling and the ritualistic drive out the back-roads of Hamilton end in a beautiful collision of lazy days, sea breezes and familiar coastal smells scattered among beach homes that have been boarded up for much of the year.
It is part of being Hamiltonian that you think the road out the back of Gordonton is the secret coast road known only to you. Every land-locked Hamiltonian knows the Whangamata coast beckons and welcomes you in its own unique way in a special secret voice and style that no-one else can share.
It's private and personal and it repeats itself for life. And it passes down the generations.
California may have Malibu, but the Coromandel and the Bay of Plenty was our final frontier.
It was our Eden and it was our refuge from the real world.
I've longed for that part of the Coromandel coast and wondered often about ending my days there where so much of my love of the Kiwi coast all started. But to paraphrase those who went before me, I didn't know that it was already behind me, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond Hamilton, where the dark fields of the Waikato rolled on under the night.
The coastline I grew up with that was once made of gravel and Fibrolite now populated by Mediterranean-inspired subdivisions and imported coffee shops with just the right amount of sophistication alongside the Auckland fashion statements that make the difference in time between then and now. My once near-unobscured view to Clark Island is now long gone behind beach houses constructed of imported Italian marble and fashion-coloured aluminum.
Sadly, my Coromandel coastal past is gone in a distant mist of progress that now sees marinas and traffic lights and new crowds that have missed the coast at its best - back in the previous decades before we could all get there en mass in less than an hour and a half.
Facebook pages like, You Know You're From the Mount When . . . display pictures of the old world taken by locals who go back that far when the coastline was still new and the roads were tracks and the buildings were shacks. It was when the coast was raw, pristine and beautiful. Today Marine Parade is home to the most garish display of "quality homes" in the country led by the ostentatiously horrific Sir Tristram House. The modern architecture on Marine Parade is a collective blot on the coast that reflects little of the soul of the Mount Beach.
Whangamata and the Mount can still disguise themselves as destinations for those who are seeking to run away from it all - while they curiously take all of it with them to their costal retreat of choice.
We're in a different era now and what has been lost has been disguised in the slow creep of modernisation of new footpaths and roadside parks that mirrors the suburban experience the tourists have attempted to leave behind.
The great divide between then and now was when sewerage systems arrived at the bequest of councils. It drove rates up and drove long time residents out. The locals were economically displaced and replaced by the new money and new garish homes that should have stayed on the plans.
Development meant subdivisions were now possible and they were everywhere. And what were once full quarter-acre-pavlova paradise properties quickly became postage-stamp sublets.
The Mount was first to sell up and become concrete and plastic, Whangamata too has surrendered much of its old-world frontier charm and even Waihi Beach with its asinine eyesore Pio Shores welcomed the urban onslaught to the coast.
I look now to refuge in places that are far flung from where I started, somewhere where fibro baches are a statement of sophistication and where that "green light at the end of the pier" that was once the destination for all nomadic summer Hamiltonions is still possibly to grasp.
And as that new beach frontier recedes before us into smaller properties and bigger subdivisions with modern houses that belong in any other city street but are transplanted to the coast for effect, I long for a future time when progress at the coast is perceived as protectionism rather than development. How much development is enough? How many beach subdivisions do we really need?
Each summer the loss seems to feel even more acute with the arrival of more concrete, more steel, more development and more subdivisions occupying the sand. It feels today that along the way towards the bright new orgiastic future we have lost more than we have gained. And there is no way back to the coastal Eden that the Coromandel and Bay of Plenty must have been in the 1950s and ‘60s.
So enjoy the coast this summer. Today it's just like the place you just left behind.
Some rich men came and raped the land
Nobody caught 'em
Put up a bunch of ugly boxes,
and Jesus people bought 'em.
They call it paradise
I don't know why
You call someplace paradise,
and then kiss it all goodbye.
The Eagles - The Last Resort
- © Fairfax NZ News