Motueka 50 Plus Walkers History



Ray Cranefield November 2015


The Motueka 50 Plus Walking Group was established in 1980, with the primary objective of providing a social network through walking. Initially, there were 18 members, and meetings were held in a small room in St Thomas's Church. In those early days walks were on Saturdays.

Initially the club's income came from tea money and a sales table, plus small annual grants. From 1984 on, the club has been financed from subscriptions and the sales table.
Meetings were very different in character from today, for apart from the social aspect, the main business was to establish the next month's walks programme. Everyone had a say and meetings were lively affairs. As the membership grew, monthly meetings took on a more formal tone, with the introduction of the four monthly walks programme, prepared by a small sub-committee.

PotLuck functions have been a feature of the club's activities, probably more so, when the club was smaller and when any excuse was seized upon. Nowadays, such events are largely focused around the mid-year function at the Motueka Bowling Club and the pre-Christmas one, in recent years at Little Kaiteriteri. An annual, catered, lunch came into being for the whole club, with another for the growing 80 plus sub-group.

Notes on the History of the Motueka Fifty Plus Walking Club – now 35 years old

The Inaugural Meeting at which the club came into being was held on November 4, 1980,
the meeting being arranged by the Nelson Federation of Countrywomen’s Institutes where Kath Beatson was President and Lois Limmer, Secretary.

The chairperson was Kath Beatson who now in her nineties is in Woodlands Retirement Home. There are only three other survivors of those at the meeting, John Gibbs, also in Woodlands, Rene McKenzie in John Inglis Community Hospital and Lois Limmer, all in their nineties too.

There was an attendance of 18 with a further 8 present at a second meeting on November 13. Early meetings were held in a small room in St Thomas's Church but with growing membership the venue was moved to the Uniting Church Hall. Initially walks were on Saturdays. No doubt, most members had work commitments during the week rather unlike today's membership. The earliest walks programme I could find was for 1986 and walks were then on Thursdays.

In 1981, the club's income came from tea money plus a $90 grant from the Motueka Borough Council, whilst the following year saw the introduction of the sales table and the Council Grant increased to $100. In 1983, a $4 subscription was levied. Grants of $100 were received from both the Council and the Canterbury Savings Bank but from 1984 on, the club was funded solely from subscriptions and the sales table. Lois Limmer remembers members taking part in a Village Green Fair held in the Cricket Ground, organised by the YMCA as a community project. Spinning and weaving members gave a demonstration and a raffle and stall raised funds for the club.

The earliest membership list I was able to find was for 1983 when there were 43 financial members. When Lesley and I joined in 1987, the membership for that year was 75 and by the end of the following year the then President, Charm Bensemann was concerned at the growing size of the club and considered that membership should be closed at 100. However this did not find favour and the club membership has remained open to this day. It was normal to acknowledge members turning 70 at meetings but as the club aged it became the 80th birthdays to be honoured in this way and this subgroup has grown in numbers and enjoys it's own annual luncheon. In 2001, Eric Stanbridge became the club's first 90 year old member and the occasion was celebrated at a Pot Luck event at the source of the Riwaka River. The list of those present at the Inaugural Meeting was headed “You're as Young as you Feel”. Is this why the club has so many “youngsters” who claim to be 80 plus?!.

Meetings were very different in character to those of the present time, for apart from the social aspect the main business was to establish the next month's walks programme. Everyone liked to have their say and meetings were lively affairs and to a new member they must have seemed very chaotic in nature. With the growing membership, monthly meetings took on a more formal format from 1990 with the introduction of the four monthly walks programmes, prepared by a small sub-committee.

John Gibbs was President for the first 5 years with Tom Donaldson standing in for John when necessary. Both of them along with Rene McKenzie were very fit walkers and were usually out front on walks but Tom went to Nepal and climbed high enough to be affected by altitude sickness from which he never fully recovered. Succeeding Presidents and Secretary/ treasurers were elected for a two year term until 2004 and then for just one year with a treasurer appointed to relieve the secretary of any financial stress. There were two exceptions on the secretarial side with Don Fraser, secretary from 1984 to late 1991 and Eric Goodwin following on for three and a half years. Don, who died several years ago, and Marcie, were very active in promoting the well-being of the club and several older members of the club attended Marcie's funeral last month.

Pot-lucks have been a feature of the club's activities, particularly in the earlier years, when any excuse for one was seized upon. They could be either day or evening functions, outdoor or indoors, initially at the Women's Institute Hall in Centre Road before the club outgrew that venue, then the old Masonic Hall, prior to it being destroyed by fire and now Mitre 10's parking area. Many members homes hosted pot-luck functions and if at the Loveridges' or Hardies' there was always a lot of fun centred around their swimming pools. Another event, popular with some, was an annual lunch hosted by Maurice Cederman at his and Marj's home in Lodders Lane. The menu was tripe and onions!

Over the years , there have been day bus trips to places such as: Anakiwa, various destinations in Golden Bay, Lakes Rotoiti and Rotoroa, Murchison, Pelorus Bridge, Portage, Tennyson Inlet, Wakamarina and also numerous boat trips jnto Abel Tasman NP.

Members have walked the Heaphy, Kepler, Queen Charlotte, St. James and Wangapeka Tracks. My first trip away was walking the Heaphy Track in 1987, memorable for three events. Those starting off with a nice paper profit on their investments ended with all that paper blown in the wind. With no communication we were unaware of the share market crash. We experienced an unexpected severe hail storm and on the bright side near Haast Hut we were able to purchase whitebait to feast on that evening.

Trips away were a popular part of the club's activities with normally at least two but often three or even four during the year but since 2005 there has just been an annual one.

These trips away have covered a wide area of the South Island : Akaroa, Arthurs Pass, Blenheim, Castle Hill, Christchurch and the Port Hills, Charleston, Collingwood. Kiwi Ranch (Curious Cove), Franz Josef, French Pass, Geraldine,Greymouth, Hanmer Springs, Haveloch, Hokitika, Kaikoura, Karamea, Kokiri, Lake Rotoiti, Methven, Murchison, Nydia Bay, Pakawau, Picton, Punakaiki, Reefton, Te Hapu, Titirangi Bay, Totaranui, TransAlpine Rail, and Westport. Two much longer trips were to Dunedin / Catlins / Bluff / Stewart Island / Tuatapere / Lake Hauroko and Percy Burn Viaduct / Manapouri / and Doubtful Sound, over 23 days, and the Wanaka / Kinloch area, just 10 days. It was from Kinloch, the day we travelled to walk on the Greenstone track that David Jackson's clutch packed up, resulting in a tricky tow back to base along the narrow winding road and traversing a rough washout on the way. It was a relief to arrive back just as a large sheep transporter was about to enter the road. That wasn't the only incident for on the way to Wanaka, at the Arahura Bridge Jack Hardie's brakes failed resulting in the car ending up on bushes and rocks short of plunging into the river below. The car was badly damaged but Jack and Launa were unhurt and were able to rejoin the group next day in a rental car. We have invaded the North Island twice, to New Plymouth and Ohakune, and also visited the Chatham Islands and members have toured The UK and Continent in a Trafalgar Tour as well as at least twice escaping the winter to the Sunshine Coast.

I have only one memory of part of a trip being aborted. Some members drove to the Blois's batch at Ligar Bay whilst a small group were transported into Canaan to walk via the Wainui River to join them. John Blois had sounded out advice on the weather conditions but rain said to be clearing became continuous. The river was up at the first crossing and was deemed unsafe to attempt a second crossing so it was about turn to now a higher river first crossing and on to the junction with the main track where thick fog blotted out visibility. There being no transport, the group descended into the valley and finally sighting a wool barn known to be there, broke into it and huddled amongst hay bales for warmth. John jogged out to the main highway, and perhaps disorientated, turned the wrong direction but was fortuitously picked up by someone who knew him and taken to a home owned by Americans from where he organised his daughter in Motueka to bring a van for the great rescue. There was no electricity at the home and with everyone finally safely back, there was a wait for water to be boiled for hot drinks. Somehow a message was sent to Ligar Bay reporting the groups safety relieving the anxiety there at the non appearance of the walkers who eventually made a very late arrival there.

In earlier times lodges with dormitory style accommodation eg the Homestead at Totaranui and cabins in motor camps were utilised but with time, came the move to the comfort and facilities of motel units. When I completed the Heaphy Track I joined up with Lesley and other members who had travelled by car to Karamea, staying at the former hospital there. Evening meal time was a real eye opener to us. Picture the chaos of members cooking for themselves and the enormous room individual boxes and chillibins of supplies and cooking utensils etc. took up in the cramped kitchen facilities. It was bedlam. Eventually initial resistance gave way to common sense and buying bulk supplies for programmed menus with members rostered for cooking duties, became the norm.

Initially there was no means of communication when walking but gradually members acquired cell phones and now we have more sophisticated means of communication to cover any emergency. Dr John Blois was a regular walker with the group and there was always an emergency medical kit in his pack so immediate medical attention was available though I have only one memory of him attending to a member and that was on the St James Walkway when Syd Scales became ill after lunch. John diagnosed food poisoning from consuming some salami Syd was carrying and that was going off. Under John's care, Syd was able to continue walking next day.

In 1992 in the Hackett Valley, I was stung in the forehead by a bee and shortly afterwards collapsed from apoplectic shock. Spenser Loveridge and Graeme Waters jogged out for help and met a DOC worker who radioed for assistance. A helicopter was seen to be circling around, and with no thought that it was looking for the group, the crew were a little terse at the lack of attraction, when it landed. I was checked out and Lesley and I were flown to the car park, cleared for her to drive me home. It was as the result of that happening that the club initiated an annual donation to the Helicopter Rescue Service, and the club has had to call on its help on a number of occasions since, perhaps the most notable occasion being when at Farewell Spit a member dislocated his hip even before walking.and then the same helicopter returned when a member collapsed at lunchtime. The ability to call on this service in emergiences is invaluable contrasting sharply with in the past for instance, two members having to jog down from the Mt Malita track to bring transport to the aid of a heart attack member and on a day walk returning from the Aorere Shelter on the Heaphy Track a member with a fractured jaw and arm after a fall, being driven after arrival at the carpark to Takaka and thence by ambulance to hospital.

I refer back to the 1983 membership list for there is one member there who is still active in the club. Not a Foundation Member and may possibly have joined a year or two earlier but that person has had the longest active association with Fifty Plus of anyone. Lets give her a hand, well done, Marlene Jackson.