Kaka Point, the first stop in the Catlins after Balclutha, only has about 200 permanent residents. So it’s quite surprising to find a bowling club there, even though it’s one with only 14 full-playing members.
“The reason for our existence is simple,” says Club Secretary, Ken Stephens, “We may be a bowling club, but we’re also a meeting place for the community. So we get a lot of use.”
The Kaka Point Bowling Club was established nearly 70 years ago in 1951, and a higgledy-piggledy pavilion had been added to over the years.
However, 10 years ago It was unrecognisably revamped, including amongst other things the laying of a concrete floor and retrofitting of double-glazing to keep the worst of South Otago’s cold outdoors. “The result is,” says Ken, “that it’s much warmer and comfortable in our clubrooms for get-togethers than at the cold, old community hall down the road. So we’ve become the go-to meeting place.”
“What started off as a $40,000 project ended up at $165,000,” sighs Ken. “But that’s when the true colours of the club members and the community came through – we fundraised the whole lot!”
The fundraising was quickly launched by an unusual happening just south of Balclutha.
“A wagon derailed on a train, and it was dragged along the tracks for miles,” explains Ken. “They had to renew all the sleepers under the track for 19 kilometres. We were offered some broken sleepers, and were told if we just took them away, they would be happy. A few of us got together with our front-end loaders and utes, gathered them up, and sold all of them within 4 weeks!”
“It was a great start. We hit up the Community Trust, and the likes of the Begg Family Trust also came to the party. And with a few more fundraising events and donations, we’d soon broken the back of what we needed. We were clear of debt by the following year.”
The volunteerism that went into the fundraising highlights that although Kaka Point is a small club, it’s a strong club. It’s ‘their’ club. The 14 full-playing members. The 15 or so social members. The loyal spouses and partners. The 200 odd permanent residents of Kaka Point. The 200 or more holidaying residents that come to the baches over summer. And the campers who keep coming back to this magic spot on the Catlins Coast.
“Many of us have been farmers in the area,” says Ken, “So we’re used to a do-everything-for-ourselves mentality. We’ve just had a young builder join the club, and he’s going to renew the plinth boards around the green. We’ve already done one side.”
One thing they couldn’t do for themselves was build the new pizza oven sitting outside on the deck of the club rooms.
“It cost just over a grand,” says Ken, “About the same as a good barbecue, and well worth it. We’ve got a bloke in the club that’s pretty sharp at making pizzas, and he can knock two out every two minutes. The punters love ‘em. They’re much better than a burnt saussie!”
As you would expect, the manuka and oak to keep the pizza oven going comes from a local farm gratis.
The members also pitch in twice a year to cut the escallonia hedge that surrounds three quarters of the green. “Everyone seems to have some sort of electric hedge trimmer, and coupled with a ute or two to stand on the back of, we can knock it off in quick time.” says Ken.
Once the volunteering’s done for the day, the members can get down to the serious business of bowls.
“The club’s big tournament is on Boxing Day …the Tom Sheppard Memorial, sponsored by the late Tom’s family. It’s an optional fours tournament, with teams coming from as far away as Dunedin and Gore who have some connection with Kaka Point. The competition’s pretty stiff. Green Island won it last year. It took them four years to win it.”
The other big day is Waitangi Day.
“It’s a non-advertised event. We invited the whole town here for an afternoon of three-bowl triples. The club put on venison patties, blue cod, and crayfish … all caught by the local lads. All we asked was bring a salad. It cost nothing. After the bowls, the kids were able to get out on the green with the smaller indoor bowls and have a go themselves. Everyone loved it.”
That’s what you do when you’re a community bowling club.
You hold great bowls as well as golden wedding anniversary bashes, Farmlands team-building exercise, pilates classes .. and anything that keeps a community being a community.
Keep up the great work, Kaka Point . . . we’re all proud of you!