Walk of Fame growing legs

Colin Magee is keen to have a Walk of Fame along Warren Cole Walkway to recognise the achievements of some Eastern Bay people and wants to start off with a star for Sir John Rowles. Photo: Troy Baker.

The idea of immortalising the Eastern Bay’s ever-increasing collection of famous people is quickly gathering momentum.

Radio host Colin Magee sowed the seed on social media last week by posting about a Hollywood-style Walk of Fame and said, with some of the people who were showing interest in the idea, he felt it “could grow legs now.”

Colin feels the ideal location for the Walk of Fame was along the Warren Cole Walkway or possibly on The Strand. His candidate for the first star is Kawerau singer Sir John Rowles.

“[He is] the first New Zealand singer to crack the international market yet is not acknowledged in his hometown.”

His post on the Whakatāne Matters Facebook page was quickly followed by a host of comments giving suggestions of about 20 people worthy of stars, from author Margaret Mahy, bands such as Kora and LAB, to our many sports people such as Lisa Carrington and Benji Marshall.

“We’ve had so many stars over the decades, but this is one town that doesn’t honour them.

“Okay, we’ve got Carrington Lane and we’ve got a couple of streets named after some. But I think this idea has merit.”

He says this is not the first time he has raised the idea.

“I did pitch it to the council, but nothing happened. Years ago, we held some meetings about starting a group, but it was just a truckload of work.”

He says he knows of at least one person who had been willing to provide support financially, but “with all the council regulations and forming a group ... it was just too hard, and we sort of gave up”.

Whakatāne Mayor Judy Turner agrees this is something the town could do better.

“I think it’s a really good discussion and it’s not the first time it has come up. [Mr Magee] is quite right. There are people who have gone quite unrecognised for what was a major contribution. Maybe we do need to get a group of interested people together and form a game plan. Groups like Rotary, Lions, and a number of other organisations in the district are really good at community projects and helping find resourcing for things like this.”

She says the review the Bay of Plenty Regional Council is currently doing around stopbanks will need to be resolved before anything can be created on the Warren Cole Walkway and she has some reservations around the plaques being set in the footpath.

"The problem with footpaths is that they need semi-regular maintenance, and you make things more complicated if it’s got things inserted into the concrete. It makes that job a little bit more difficult.”

She prefers the idea of a Wall of Fame. She also feels the district’s iwi partners need to be consulted.

“In the past, the way these things were dealt with was that you named a street or a park after someone. One of the issues we have recognised is that a lot of our streets have given more recognition to Pakeha and less to the iwi who are partners in our district.

“If you look at how things are commemorated well, I think iwi do a good job of that, so some discussions with them would be my first port of call. They may feel that they do this in their own marae, in their own way, for their own people, but I think I would like to have a discussion with them as to what they recommend."

She says where it's and the criteria for people to be included will have to be discussed.

“You obviously want something that is in the public view and where it is regularly seen. You want it somewhere people are regularly reminded of greatness.

“There’s probably a whole lot of people with an interest in something like this, and then who determines whose name goes on there?”

Neighbouring councils such as Kawerau and Ōpōtiki would need to be consulted on people associated with those districts.

“You need a few protocols in place. We would need to make sure that we’re not trampling on someone else’s turf.”

-Local Democracy Reporting is Public Interest Journalism funded through NZ On Air

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