Hokitika gears up for 150th

By Julian Lee

Hokitika is raring up for its 150th birthday bash at the end of 2014, and locals are already working behind the scenes feverishly planning the event.
A committee has set the official anniversary date as December 10, 2014, exactly 150 years since the town’s official foundation.
Heritage Hokitika will chair a meeting on May 20, with invitations sent out to individuals they would like on board.
Events already planned for December 2014 include a Richard Seddon masked ball, and a parade with the theme “15 Decades of Westland: Celebrating the Past.”
Westland District Council events manager Mike Keenan said the planning committee was looking at the 100th anniversary celebrations held in 1964 as something to go off.
Just as the community did in 1964, the idea would be to tie in a whole year of events to the December celebrations and make it an extra special event.
The committee want to include events such as the 100th anniversary of Gallipoli in April, the 50th anniversary of the Hokitika Lions Club, and use Kids Day in March to celebrate 150 years of children in Westland.
Other events which would complement the celebrations include Driftwood and Sand, the Sand Dunes Classic and the Wildfoods Festival.
Mr Keenan said the 1964 celebrations were particularly memorable and they would like to see a repeat of the enthusiasm everyone had for the event.
The emphasis of the whole carnival would be to encourage people around New Zealand with a connection to Westland to ‘come back home’, he said.
He cited Scotland as an example after it used the same idea in the early 2000s, when its tourism was suffering a massive decline. The campaign eventually bucked the trend and proved hugely successful.
Events from the centennial celebrations included pioneer-themed parades, a beard-growing competition and a gold rush on the beach, in which would-be miners foraged for specially planted gold nuggets.
An organising committee in Ross is planning its own 150th birthday celebrations, which are expected to fall around the same time.