Tuesday, April 10, 2012


I live in paradise, a tiny cottage at the mouth of the Waitaki River at exactly 45 degrees south. The community has a history which begins with the Public Works project of building hydro dams across the upper reaches of the Waitaki, When the project finished the workmen's huts were sold to enthusiastic fishermen, A generous farmer gave ten acres of land for them to set beside the river and use as week end getaways. Over the years the fishermen themselves improved the cottages, built streets, paid for electricity to be connected and water to be reticulated, A small committee of crib owners administers the essential infrastructure, like paying rates and electricity.Crib owners pay ground rent for the 600 square feet of land they occupy, When paths need mending, or windbreaks need pruning everybody turns up with shovels and rakes and helps. This committee reports to the community as a whole each Easter. It is informal,and up to now has worked well. Often as crib owners reached retirement age they would sell their house in town and move into their crib. Gardens have grown, and through the whole community is this common interest in fishing. Conversation usually begins with where salmon are lurking, what pools sea run trout have been seen in, the effects of didymo (rock snot) on trout, the big one that got away yesterday. There is usually a waiting list of people wanting to purchase any cribs that come on the market. I bought mine ten years ago. I agreed that I would purchase a fishing licence each year. About the second year Mennieres syndrome struck and I had to give up fishing, people prone to giddy spells don't stroll around on river banks. But I still bought a fishing license.About my fifth year here somebody demanded that when we paid our annual rent we should produce our fishing licence. In other words somebody on our informal little committee did not trust people to honour the agreement we had made. Last year the committee passed a motion at one of their meetings saying that elderly crib owners who no longer fished did not need to produce a fishing licence.But this year, after the Annual General Meeting, the requirement was back in place. A few of us, retired people who have held responsible positions over our working lives, are concerned because what was an informal group has somehow turned itself into a local government and seems to have no concept of how such a body should run. Meetings are informal, speakers interrupt people who are trying to make a point. They do not speak to the chair, in fact I have attended meetings where speakers were ignored while the discussion roamed far away from the point supposedly under discussion. Motions are'passed'without proper procedures, no notice of motion posted ahead of the meeting, no seconder, no proper vote count, but somehow the motion becomes law.When I was away in Crete two years ago another crib owner inspected the repairs I was having done in my absence, then inspected the contents of my home, and on my return berated me for 'living in squalor', An oak tree planted to commemorate Elizabeth 11's coronation was poisoned then destroyed because 'the leaves made a mess.' I no longer attend the A.G.Ms, they are meaningless. I pay my rates and ground rent, and I still buy a fishing license because I agreed to do that when I came. But I will not produce it when I make my next payment to the camp treasurer. And I am tempted to post this remark by Daniel Defoe on the community notice board: NATURE HAS LEFT THIS TINCTURE IN THE BLOOD THAT ALL MEN WOULD BE TYRANTS IF THEY COULD.

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