Good community relationships are more important than hosting a million-dollar world-class surfing event, according to Raglan surfers.
New Zealand lost the chance to host the glamour Search event for the world's top 44 surfers in August, after Raglan surfers agreed with landowners that the Indicators break, about 1km from Manu Bay, was a culturally inappropriate venue.
Sponsor Rip Curl viewed the Indicators, a razor-edged left-hand point break, as being critical to its event pitch for unique surf locations and axed its Raglan plans. But Raglan-based Surfing New Zealand chief executive Greg Townsend said while his association was very supportive of the Search event, the bottom line was the Raglan foreshore and around Indicators was sacred Maori land.
"It would have been fantastic for New Zealand," Townsend said. "But local Kiwi landowners and surfers explained to me the meaning of that area and what it meant to them. That made our decision quite clear: it is more important to have relationships than a major event. We are respectful of cultural sensitivities of both Maori and surfers and this is a sacred bit of land - if the community aren't behind it, neither are we. This could potentially tear a town apart and we don't want the responsibility of that."
He said there had been a unanimous "no" from those who attended a meeting held at the Raglan Town Hall to discuss the issue. "We would be fighting a losing battle. We all support the event, just not that particular venue," said Townsend.
Surfing New Zealand has since proposed holding the event at Manu Bay and the Raglan bar and has sent Rip Curl a DVD of outstanding footage of these two venues to try to secure the event for 2009.
Meanwhile, Raglan Community Board member, Whale Bay resident and Point Board Riders Club member Terry Gibbs said the surfers got it right: "It would have been a really nice boost for the town at that time of year," he said. "But we would rather have peace and harmony all round. No one is concerned except Rip Curl. They wanted something that hadn't been done before. But we have already got one surf area (Manu Bay) that is given up to contests. It's good Indicators is left alone."