Celebrating the river and harbour

by Andy Bryenton

With the commemoration of their 75th birthday coming up in August next year, and plans afoot to celebrate the centenary of New Zealand’s first airmail flight, you could safely assume that the history of Dargaville’s link to the water is on the minds of boating club members as they prepare for their annual Easter regatta. The big event, which draws vessels and sailors from around the largest harbour in the Southern Hemisphere, is as much about the future as about the past.

With a longer than usual holiday on the calendar, this may prove to be the biggest regatta in recent times, with plenty to see from onshore as boats of all sizes square off in a series of friendly competitions. As in previous years, it’s not just the power and speed of each craft, which takes the trophy; it’s the skill of the crew reading the capricious waters of the Northern Wairoa, and being clever enough to match their times around the course.

Of course, the expanse of water where this recreational run takes place was once a thriving hub of river commerce. In the days of tall ships and kauri mills, the muddy waters in sight of Dargaville sometimes resembled a forest of masts. Now, the river links the town to the ocean via the great Kaipara Harbour, a drawcard for anglers and those who seek an active, outdoor life after leaving the city. Thus, the appeal of having a river and a thriving boating club in the heart of town looks like being a positive point for the future, just as it was in our colonial past.

The big regatta is set for April 20, with the boats lining up for the starter’s gun at 11am. There are plenty of great spots along the riverside to take photographs and watch the action, but of course, all comers are welcomed to visit the headquarters of the boating club itself, next to the riverside gardens in Dargaville. Good food and further entertainment are promised when the racing is over and the afternoon draws into the evening.