I really truly hate goodbyes. I'm not talking about selling a horse and waving it off - I'm ok with that. I don't mind saying goodbye to a dear friend at the airport if I know our paths will cross again soon. And I don't mind leaving a great town or city if I know I am free to return there again someday. It's the permanent farewells I struggle with. The kind of permanency that goes with saying goodbye at the graveside to a mate or family member. Or holding your horse's head in your arms one final time as the vet's car comes up the drive...
Well today I got that same terrible lump in my throat. Those very same tears in my eyes. But I was not farewelling a horse nor a friend - this time I was saying goodbye to the land I grew up on. A very special place that will forever be in my heart. Today I took a last look around our old farm at Okete, lay down in the paddocks where I spent my youth. I looked for one final time at the magnificent view I once took for granted - and I cried.
Okete Bay is a gorgeous part of New Zealand - nestled in the Raglan Harbour. The Okete stream makes her entry into the Raglan harbour here via some lovely waterfalls. It is home to whitebait, flounder, kahawai and the occasional stingray. And until recently it was the home of the Hartstone family.
My parents moved to Okete well before I was born. Dad managed the basalt quarry there as part of our extended family business interests. He walked to work through the paddock each day and home again at night. I never minded growing up beside a quarry - in fact it was a great place to explore and I loved coming home from school on the days when they were doing a blast. The roads would be blocked and the signal given before gelignite exploded the rock face and my pony would look up from her grazing in startle.
After the quarry closed and Dad retired he kept himself busy with a hectic schedule of floundering in Okete Bay, whitebaiting under the waterfalls and being the self appointed Harbour Master of all he could see through the binoculars out the lounge ranch slider. If there was a flock of geese coming through he would know about it. If you wanted to know how many flounder the neighbour had caught that day - well he knew that too.
Growing up here was truly a paradise for me. The pony club was two paddocks away and the farmland we were privileged to ride over was first class. Hunting took place on our doorstep once a year and we could swim the horses in the bay. My second pony "Aladdin's Lad" and many to follow were buried here along with pet dogs and cats.
I truly thought this land my family had occupied for 40 years would be ours forever. But alas it wasn't to be. You see my parents never owned this wonderful 13 acre block of paradise. Instead it was leased to them by the Waikato District Council on a revolving 10 year lease. About three years ago the lease was up for renewal. The council sent out a statement saying that instead of the $1800 pa paid for the land for the previous 10 years, the new lease fee would be $23,000. Well over ten years that's $2,300 pa - a bit of a big jump but what with inflation and land prices I guess it's to be expected. After three years of paying $2,300 my mother suddenly got a letter from the council alerting her to the fact they actually wanted $23,000 PER ANNUM and they were asking for $87,000 in back payments.
A length court battle followed and the judge decided that we did not need to pay the back payments as it was the council's own mistake and shoddy paperwork that led to the debarcle. However the council were free to set any astronomical price on the lease that they saw fit, and so my parents had no option but to up sticks (literally) and relocate.
For a retired couple both on the pension the thought of moving from the place they had been in so many years was simply heartbreaking. I don't think I will ever forgive the Council for not allowing them one further ten years lease which by the time it was up I am sure a move to a smaller property would be imminent.
At the start of this year the house was picked up in great New Zealand fashion (they don't do this in other parts of the world!) on the back of a huge truck, and it was brought 5ks up the road to the family freehold block where I run my business from. Who would have thought that at 38 I would have my parents moving in with me! I'm happy to say they are at the far end of the property and so far its actually been great having them around more - long may it continue!
I guess its just the price we pay for progress huh? We need to adapt to changes in our lives. And along with the windfarm which now sits high up on the majestic hills overlooking Te Uku and Okete, I guess it was all inevitable in the end.
But I digress. The point of this blog is to show the reader just how special Okete is and how much she will be forever in my heart. The huge pines where I used to play as a kid, the pink "naked lady" flowers that grew on the bank,the tyres down in the mud. As I took a final walk around the land today I took it all in. I breathed her, smelled her and touched her. As I latched the gate for the final time today I knew I was saying a final goodbye to a friend. Never to return.