Showdown in the Basin

Who knew? Be warned: if you want to photograph anyone in front of Heritage New Zealand’s Kemp House you must first seek the permission of the property manager.

This despite the fact that the building sits front and centre of Kerikeri’s picturesque Stone Store Basin, right alongside the eponymous trading site.

And despite the fact that Heritage New Zealand, other organisations responsible for the Basin and the various bodies responsible for promoting tourism in Kerikeri and the Bay of Islands profess to be doing everything they can to encourage people to visit the place.

This is the image that caused all the fuss. A bunch of foreign exchange students on the veranda of the lovely old building.

Anyone who has been to the Stone Store Basin will understand the sheer absurdity of requiring all photography involving these visual centrepieces to be cleared by some bureaucrat.

Quite what the foreign youngsters thought about the aggressive, officious, patronising and clearly flustered kill-joy who came and wagged her politically-correct finger in my face for daring to enjoy the wonderful old building remains unclear. But, for sure, they didn’t pick her as welcoming, warm, friendly, accommodating, laid-back and all those other virtues our various tourism marketing bodies spend a fortune trying to portray Kiwis as.

They watched wide-eyed, and in silence, as she berated me before striding back into the sanctity of her domain. I can’t repeat here the epithet one of them was heard to mutter as she departed like a galleon under full sail – the needles of her ire as evident as three decks of cannon run out on full muster.

To be fair, in the quest for a great image I had – foolishly in retrospect – also encouraged the kids to climb a nearby tree. Apparently these days trees are not for climbing. This, it seems, is a heritage tree! A heritage tree with bark worn shiny from generations of youngsters doing exactly what I had encouraged these ones to do. Doing what any visitor to the Basin on any summer weekend will see lots of children doing.

A tree that has grown strong and proud under the attention of many thousands of Kiwi kids. And, guess what?! All without the help of officious ministration.

Heritage New Zealand needs to understand that part of the attraction of these places is that they are not bottled in preservative or wrapped in cotton wool. It is their very accessibility that makes them so dear to us all. If they start putting them behind barriers and making them inaccessible then they will lose something immensely precious – our love.

Anyone who has been to the Stone Store Basin will understand the sheer absurdity of requiring all photography involving these visual centrepieces to be cleared by some bureaucrat.

Seriously? Our community – and the New Zealand public – deserve better than that. I have heard it said that the Heritage New Zealand staff responsible for administering the Stone Store Basin have become increasingly petty, grasping and arrogant. Today I saw it for myself.

I’d respectfully suggest to the property manager that if she doesn’t want people posing for photographs on or around ‘her’ property then she probably needs to manage up a sign that says so.

A sign that says: “No! After travelling many thousands of kilometres to see the sights of our nation you may NOT photograph this one without my permission. Go away!”

And another that says: “You might be local. And over the years you may very well have responded handsomely to our countless pleas for community support. But DON’T YOU DARE photograph this building that sits right at the heart of this town you call home. Buzz off!”

Bah, humbug!

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