Broad Bay, our home

Broad Bay, our home

My name is Bernadette Newlands and I live with my partner Mark Strang in Virginia Avenue, on the beautiful little road that leads to Yellow Head and Broad Bay Cemetery. I have lived here since 1994 and Mark since about 1983. Mark’s uncle Cedric Meredith bought the house in the late 1970s and Mark’s sister Elly Koch and her husband Hendrik Koch lived there initially until they bought a house in Portobello. A little later, Mark shifted in to rent the Virginia Ave house. It was a very humble two-bedroom cottage with a sunroom in those days, but the views across the harbour to Quarantine Island and access to the beach below have always made it a very special spot to live. We bought the house off Uncle Ced in 1997 and in 2006 did a major rebuild/ renovation project, adding on an upstairs and making the house a lot warmer and more comfortable.

A fierce north-easterly can blow off the harbour, so initially Elly and Hendrik, and later Mark, planted native trees and shrubs that give us shelter forty years on. We enjoy pottering about in our mature and established garden. It is always a bit wild and natural but these days the bird life is very abundant. There were always bellbirds and they have been joined by plentiful tui in the past 15 years or so.

In recent years we are delighted to see more and more keruru in the garden too. We love listening to all the bird call and hearing the thwump, thwump of the wood pigeons’ wings as they fly through the section. The work of the Peninsula Biodiversity group in ridding the Peninsula of possums has increased the bird life noticeably. I grew up in North Canterbury on an inland farm and it was always exciting for us kids on the drive down to Christchurch to catch our first glimpse of the sea. I never imagined I would end up living with a beautiful view of the harbour in all its different moods and weathers, islands just across the water, and our soft harbour hills. We feel incredibly lucky to live in this beautiful and peaceful spot.

My first connection with the Peninsula was as a young teacher of the junior class at Broad Bay School for most of 1982, and in 1984 got my first permanent job, teaching with my friend Kerry Mackay in the Junior Whanau at Portobello School. I was there for ten years and absolutely loved it. I became the Deputy Principal at Portobello in 1987 and left in 1993 to take up the job of Principal at Karitane School. It was a great place to start principalship but the Peninsula was calling me back and in 1995 I was lucky enough to be appointed principal at Broad Bay School after the long-serving and much-loved principal Keith Harrison retired. How lucky was I to be able to stop my long commute to Karitane and to be able to live and work in Broad Bay. It was great to get to know all the children of the community and many families. The school had nearly 100 pupils at that stage with four classrooms operating and at playtime and lunchtime the playground was full to bursting.

Broad Bay has always been a great wee school and community hub and it’s great to see that continuing today. The annual plant fair was a great community fundraiser for both Portobello and Broad Bay Schools, requiring lots of teamwork and effort. Laurel Dunn, our school secretary, hosted many potting-up sessions in the weekends in her garage to ensure we had the thousands of plants we needed. I have enjoyed seeing Broad Bay School putting on their own plant sales again in recent years!

In my time at Broad Bay we built the outdoor adventure playground with a wonderful community effort to get it installed. Later, with significant money from the Ministry of Education, we did a major extension, creating a new office and reception area, new library, staffroom (in the original Dental Clinic) and what I think is the best principal’s office in the city with a stunning view to the harbour. We celebrated our 125th year of schooling in Broad Bay in 2002 and it was great to see so many ex pupils and teachers returning for the celebrations, and to be able to host them in our newly extended facilities. Another special event had been Broad Bay’s celebration of Otago’s 150 years in 1998. I was on the organising committee and the school hosted a great fair as part of the weekend’s many fun activities.

In late 2003 I took up my final principalship along the road at Macandrew Bay School, where I very happily stayed until I retired in 2022. I have been incredibly lucky to spend most of my teaching career working on the Peninsula and it was a special pleasure to teach the children of those I had taught back in the day as juniors at either Portobello or Broad Bay Schools.

My partner Mark Strang is an artist and in the 1990s and early 2000s I enjoyed being involved in the ABBA Art Exhibitions at the Broad Bay Hall that Mark and a group of local artists organised. It was impressive to see how many local residents had a passion for visual art and the incredible talent we had within our community. These ABBA ( Assn of Broad Bay Artists) shows eventually morphed into Open Arts and the exhibitions migrated to Macandrew Bay.

Retired now, I have time to enjoy walking on our wonderful walking and cycle path, a great addition to our Peninsula environment. I also love walking around the beach at Yellow Head at low tide and just soaking up our amazing natural environment. We love travelling in New Zealand and further afield but also love coming home to beautiful Broad Bay.

By Bernadette Newlands

Bernadette Newlands and Mark Strang
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