Newsletter No. 159

June 20, 2018

It’s been a while since the last newsletter, but there have been several recent issues, actions, reactions and changes in focus; creating questions that have needed some clarification before putting them out to the wider community for discussion.

The AGM of the Houghton Valley Progressive Association is coming up on Sunday 8 July (4 pm in the hall). There will be a discussion focussing on these questions – encompassing the role of the HVPA, the use of the hall and the care of the environment of our valley. The discussion and consequent decisions will be the basis of the aims of the HVPA for the coming year.

We will also celebrate the HVPA new year with a talk by our school Principal, Luana Carroll, on how she sees the school interacting with the community and caring for the area.

Up until the AGM there will be three newsletters at one week intervals, each featuring one set of questions, and providing some background information to support the discussion. We start here with the questions about the Houghton Valley Progressive Association.

  • Should the Houghton Valley Progressive Association reinvent itself – its name, its structure, its activities – to become more relevant?
  • How can we make it one of the community’s greatest assets?
  • How can it reflect a new outlook, based on principles of proactive community and kaitiakitanga of the place we inhabit?

History of the HVPA

In 1925, the residents of Buckley Road, Houghton Bay Road and View Road formed the South Melrose Ratepayers and Residents’ Association, with the aim of getting action on long overdue basic services such as a bus service, milk supply, electric street lighting, an extended water and gas supply and extended drainage, as well as telephone services.

In 1926, owing to confusion with Melrose, the Association was renamed the Haughton Valley Progressive Association. By then many of the services had been improved along with the building of 30 more houses.

In 1927, a local family donated land on which to build a community hall and tennis courts. There is a fuller account of these early beginnings on the Houghton Valley website.

From its beginning, the HVPA has been a voice for our community,
negotiating with the City Council over the provision of services to the suburb and the use of the generous amounts of public land in the area, with meetings often reported in the Evening Post. For instance, in 1936 and 1937, local issues included the tar sealing of the roads. Hornsey Road had potholes and Houghton Bay Road had ruts two feet wide and ten inches deep. Buckley Road in particular was in need of improvement:

“A member described the condition of Buckley Road South as unfit to carry any vehicular traffic and said it was nothing more than a gorse-covered clay track, which tradespeople would not use. It was absolutely necessary to have the road completed, as the risk of fire was too great; there was also the difficulty of access in case of sickness in the district … in cases of sickness it had frequently occurred that six doctors had been rung up. It seemed impossible to get doctors to go there because the road was impassable.”

The  image show the state of the roads and the number of houses in the lower valley in 1938. If you would like to view the image in more detail, the link is:

In 1944 issues were a little more refined, such as the need for a bathing shed at Princess Bay and an improved bus route.

The HVPA continued to contribute to the vitality of our community in a range of ways over the years. It facilitated Civics lessons for our children and dances for the adults in the 1930s; preschool education since the 1940s; and, until the Civil Defence reforms of the mid 1990s, it helped ensure the valley had a strong contingent of trained volunteers in the event of a Civil Emergency.

Every decade or so another small group of Houghton Valley residents has stepped forward and replaced HVPA members who can no longer contribute their services to our community. Similarly the community uses of the hall have periodically changed in ways unimaginable to our HVPA ancestors. The time has come again for such review and the need for refreshment is upon us now.

The Association name

As you have seen, our organisation name has been changed once before. We are beginning to wonder whether this now quaintly old fashioned name is appropriate for today. In 1926, progress in the valley was important to establish basic amenities.

“Progress” over the years since has included filling large areas of the valley with the city’s excess garbage and converting its clean waters into high-risk leachate and pumping it several kilometers to Happy Valley tip (or out into the bay in high rainfall). Projects that didn’t make it included converting our fields into a light-industrial zone, or covering several of them in tarmac for a netball faciilty!

Today, we need to progress beyond “Progress”. Progressive behaviour involves careful resource use, ensuring access to affordable and democratic infrastructure, conserving our endemic soils, water, forests, wildllfe and solar potential, and respecting our Maori taonga.

Other community entities include the phrase “Residents and/or Ratepayers Association”, and are perceived as being the channel through which ratepayers lobby the Council for improved services. But maybe we need an entity that is ours first and foremost, for us to help improve our own community. Looking to the Council for help may not be the only solution.

The Association structure

The HVPA is a registered association with charitable status, like a club or society, exempt from having to pay tax. But with that status comes obligations in the form of committee meetings complete with agendas, financial reports, voting and minutes. Designed to keep organisational and financial accountability, it is never-the-less an archaic system not suited to people with busy lives. Many groups doing good work in the valley at the moment are completely ad hoc, operating on zero budgets and an email list.

Maybe it is time to find a more appropriate organisational model to base our community voice on, one that increases the inspirational activities and decreases the red tape. We have to bear in mind the realities of public liability and the possible need for applying for grants. However, trusts are less demanding in terms of membership, and one of the most enduring community models in this country is the marae. It’s time to think outside the square!

The Association role

Recently there have been examples of concerned locals doing something about a situation that bothers them. A small group approached the Council and the Cook Strait News (May 24) about the need for a better playground at the top of Sinclair Park. Another local called in the Council to help with weed clearing, who did their job in a typically insensitive manner (see photo). In earlier times people would have come to the HVPA, who would have discussed the issue with the community and approached the Council on their behalf.

A community organisation is there to listen to and represent its community. It can be slower and sometimes more fraught to get the wider community engaged in a project, but it is ultimately a far richer experience – the making of friends and the making of community.

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