Twenty-five years in Broad Bay

Twenty-five years in Broad Bay

We made our home in Broad Bay in 1997.  Coming from the North West of England where our view was a row of identical red brick semi-detached houses across the road, moving into a wooden villa overlooking Otago Harbour was heaven!  The first weekend there was a regatta.  We sat on our balcony overlooking the boat club and had to pinch ourselves to remind ourselves that this was our new life!  Living on the Otago Peninsula is very special.  There are not many places in the world where you can work in a university city during the day and half an hour later be on a beach watching sea lions and penguins!

Our family of five arrived just a few months before the 150th Otago and Southland celebrations that took place in January 1998.  Broad Bay was the first place to commemorate the event.  Everyone dressed up in period costume.  The Mayor, Sukhi Turner, arrived by boat and was taken up Camp Road to Larnach Castle in a horse and cart.  

Mayor Sukhi Turner ‘unveiling’ the 150th anniversary seat at Broad Bay beach reserve

A big marquee was erected on the beach reserve.  There was a champagne breakfast and a dance.  That was a magical evening.  Everyone parading in their costumes, fairy lights along the jetty, candles in brown paper bags weighed down by sand lighting up the pathways. 

The marquee erected for the 150th celebratory champagne breakfast and dance in January 1998

We got to know more of the locals that weekend.  One of the people I met at the dance subsequently asked me if I would like to join the book club.  I said yes (flattered to be asked, but a bit scared, not knowing how academic it might be) and have enjoyed being a member ever since.  Many of the book club members have been there much longer than I and have become very good friends. 

In Manchester we had been active in the Mersey Valley conservation group and it was good to find we could do similar work here in Broad Bay.  We joined Save The Otago Peninsula (STOP) and weeded and planted in places like Styles Creek.  It was strange, however, to find ourselves pulling out elder and hawthorn, whereas we had been planting them in the UK!  In recent years my husband Vic has been more active on the Hereweka Harbour Cone Estate where, as well as planting trees, he has made maps, signs and seats.

Another organisation we joined, the basis of other friendships, was the fruit and vegetable co-op which operates from a shed in Clearwater Street.  The co-op had a party every year which rotated around the houses of different members.  The children dressed up one year and I was flummoxed to see a child running around the garden wearing a cape and a red Z painted on his forehead.  That was my first encounter with Harry Potter!

When we moved to Broad Bay, our own three children were too old to go to the local school and were all enrolled at schools in town.  I think the distance from friends in Dunedin was frustrating for them at times.  One night we were woken at 1 am by a phone call from a policeman.  He asked us if we knew where our youngest son was.  ‘Yes — in bed,’ we said.  ‘Go and look,’ he said.  When we checked, there were pillows in the bed to make it look like someone was in it!  He had cycled to town in the dark with a torch taped to his bike and had been picked up in Anderson’s Bay by the police in the early hours, having visited a friend!   With today’s cycleway that might not have been too bad, but cycling in the dark on Portobello Road at that time was a dangerous exploit.

I worked at Otago University as Computer Training Manager for the first eight years that we lived here.  I was jealous of my husband who worked at the Albatross Centre.  I thought he was so lucky to head in that direction every day whilst I had to drive into town.  When the role of Manager of the NZ Marine Studies Centre (and the public aquarium) on the Portobello Peninsula became vacant I was so excited – this was my dream job!  But there was a problem: I didn’t know anything about fish!   The interview panel must have been impressed by all my other skills, however, as they took me on.  I soon picked up enough knowledge about marine life to be able to give tours around the aquarium, and to talk to radio and newspaper interviewers about animal exploits – the escaping octopus, the seahorse dads giving birth to hundreds of babies, and the camouflage crabs that made their homes in specially made glass shells which revealed their inner secrets. It was such a shame that we had to close to the public when building checks following the Christchurch earthquake decreed the main aquarium building unsafe, though we carried on offering education programmes and tours in the remaining facilities. 

It can be hard to meet locals when you spend all your time in town.  But working on the Peninsula, and in a tourism role, was a great way to get to know more people.   Every time we had a holiday programme or special event I would do the rounds of all the establishments that would display our leaflets and bribe them with chocolate fish to put up our posters in their windows! 

When our eldest child was about to start university we decided to build a self-contained sleep-out for her in our garden.  A local designer came up with a plan and trained Vic in building skills.  Eighteen months later we had a sizeable cottage, but by then our daughter was established in a flat in town!  Our neighbour who was running a B&B suggested we take in paying guests and offered to send us some of their overflow.  We did this and it proved to be a success.  Our garden is quite large (three-quarters of an acre), and a few years later we built a second cottage.  We are both retired from regular work, but still run our accommodation business – Fantail Lodge – welcoming people from all around the world.  (It helps to pay the rates!)  We love living in Broad Bay and every person who comes to stay reminds us how lucky we are to be here.

By Tessa Mills

Comments are closed.