Paekākāriki’s great journalist and jazz DJ, Don Polly passed away this week. Earlier this year we were lucky to capture this piece from Don, reflecting on the incredible success of a local community newspaper. Earlier this month a group of 11 friends gathered in the radio station that Don Polly helped to found, to record his last show for him and, below provide their dedications to him while he was in hospice. A Memorial Service for Don will be held 1pm Saturday 14 November, St Peter’s Hall. Paekakariki.FM will feature Don’s jazz shows the entire day back to back on the air at 88.2FM steaming at www.paekakariki.fm, or by downloading the app on your phone (search Paekakariki in your app store).
Before there was Paekākāriki.nz there was Paekākāriki Xpressed. Paekākāriki Informed Community Incorporated have been publishers of both. It has been our inspiration: an award-winning community newspaper we consider, with total bias, to be one of the finest ever printed. Remarkably, it was packed with community contributions for almost 100 issues and funded by advertisements from community businesses. It’s a model PICI based both Paekākāriki.fm and Paekākāriki.nz on. Editor of Paekakariki Xpressed Don Polly here reflects on those who contributed to a paper which informed and entertained Paekākāriki households for a decade.
‘I’ve just spent the last three days going through the whole ten years of the paper so my mind’s kind of boggling. A lot of articles that I felt were the best were not written by Allie or me or our reporters. We only wrote about 20% of every issue. People from the community wrote the bulk of the copy, a lot of it is fantastic stuff, really. Profound, funny, insightful…’ – Don Polly in an interview with David Groves a few days after the final issue of Paekakariki Xpressed appeared.
Paekākāriki was essentially a working class village – a rail town, with a strong Māori history. The Paekākāriki hotel/pub was classic, known throughout New Zealand. The arrival of 15,000 US Marines during WWII raised the village profile and left its legacy. Its relative isolation and ‘best swimming beach’ added to the sense of ours and us.
When I first worked here in 1970 for a few years as a probation officer, there was a noted lack of fences between and in front of houses. Then, maybe a third of the homes were weekend or summer baches. A developing and well-integrated strong gay community together with an increasing number of writers and artists pretty much made Paekākāriki what it is today.
The village has had its commercial ups and downs. It once boasted two large general stores, a resident community cop, and over time, three home-delivered community newsletters. Even in my time, a video/games shack, a haberdashery, hardware store, a chemist, doctor, lawyer, fish ‘n chip shop, bookshop, two cafes and three licensed restaurants. When I moved here a decade later, I thought, ‘What this town needs is a newspaper.’
Many of the ideas we used in the Xpressed, came from my previous ten years’ experience as founder and editor of Te Awa-iti, a much larger weekly Porirua Community newspaper, a story in itself. Someday, maybe…
The Xpressed was a much smaller and more refined version of the Porirua paper. We established PICI, (Paekakariki Informed Community Incorporated), a charitable society shortly after the first Xpressed was published in 2001. I’m pleased to see it’s still serving the community and still being used as a Paekākāriki collective resource almost 20 years later.
Many people in Paekākāriki will know and remember some of the stars of the paper, experienced journalists Allie Webber, Esther Bullen, Lyndy McIntyre, Jennie Gutry and Lyndon Keene. Sub-editor Sarah Brown, proof-readers Maureen Birchfield and Barry Williams provided the quality control. Dale Coveney was our copy typist.
We covered basic expenses and a small commission for our ad reps, a dozen volunteers including Gloria Hildred, Emily Boonen, Deryn Groves, Rebecca Robati-Busby, Corinne O’Neill, Mel Holland, Debbie Winter and me. For hundreds of businesses in and outside Paekākāriki, these people were the face of the paper. It was a boring, exciting, disappointing, challenging, difficult and often rewarding task. My appreciation and admiration increases for our advertising reps every time I think about it. By the time we closed, they were bringing in an annual advertising income of more than $50,000.
Our queen of production was Angela Smith, who toned the photographs, designed and typeset almost every issue before presenting a final proof and camera-ready copy for printing. Spectro Print, and then Precise Print – both Kapiti printers – produced an inviting, good looking paper, with clear photographs, printed on heavier semi-gloss paper. Precise Print invited me to watch the Xpressed roll off the presses – always a culminating and exciting time! I then joined to help on the counting and stuffing table, the final step before delivery.
Delivering the 1,350 Xpressed copies door to door to more than 750 homes and businesses in Paekākāriki, some 200 businesses in Raumati and Paraparaumu and beyond, mailing out paid subscriptions, as well as official copies required by local and national libraries, and leaving ten or so extra copies in more than two dozen dairies, book shops, doctor’s offices, cafes, and government and council offices, was as important a function as any. Special credit must go to delivery supervisors Lisa Lake and Sandra Mackie who packed and delivered papers to each of the delivery boys and girls and followed up concerns from residents whose husbands or wives (or even neighbours), may have grabbed the paper first.
Aside from parts of production, such as pre-press and printing, only paper delivery was paid work. Our young people received five cents for every paper delivered to a letter box or business – substantially more than that paid to professional distributors. ‘Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…’ well, maybe not snow, but here are the young heroes: Oscar Doorne, Nick Seabright, Sadwyn Brophy, Zack and Levi Mackie, Sapphire Smith, Tyler Cadie, Jennifer and Peter Noble, Bevan Hookway, Henry Smith, Daniel Nepia-Ellison, Dylan Metcalf, Jenna and Jordan Allen, Carl and Thomas Lake, Larissa and Haley Collis, Corey and Vincent Thompson.
A tragedy that affected us all was the death of Xpressed paper-boy, Bevan Hookway (17), a Kapiti College senior and student pilot, killed in a plane crash over Paraparaumu in February 2008. He had been delivering our paper for four years, and was saving money to pay for his private pilot’s licence.
The power behind the paper came from our volunteer Governance Committee many of whom were involved from start to finish. The knowledge, talent and support these people brought to the paper and to me can never be fully recognised. In no special order, these are the people that presided over the paper: Barry Williams, Maureen Birchfield, Nicki Wrighton, Deryn Groves, Allison Webber, Pat Rosier, Michael Laracy, Gloria Hildred, Dale Coveney, Sandra Mackie, and me as editor (ex officio), with solicitor Leo Watson and accountant Shelly Smith. Any unpaid advertising bills were collected by the diminutive and capable June Stefanitsis.
The accolades that followed the paper’s closure were strong, loud and unending:
‘I first became acquainted with the Xpressed team during the Paekākāriki floods and saw first-hand how valuable it was to have a paper that we completely enlisted in the life and times of the village. Over the years, the paper has really become part of us, how we communicate and how we do business here.
Over the years, the Xpressed has been important for both established and new members of the community. It has introduced us to each other – giving new residents a chance to shine and older identities a chance to share their knowledge and wisdom. It has helped us stay in touch with each, learn about what’s going on and find out how to get involved.
Along with hundreds of others, I give thanks for what we’ve had. I hope a new Xpressed will rise from the ashes of the great institution we just lost.’ – Former Kapiti Mayor Jenny Rowan
Unfortunately, this was not to be. Not yet anyway. Not even at Ralph and Sunny’s fabulous hundreds-strong community farewell when feelings of support and public appreciation were running high; when the idea of the paper continuing even in some limited form was applauded; when both Allie and I both pledged our experience in-behind-the-scenes help; when some three dozen people offered to write articles, or to proofread, or to deliver, or help with design.
The problem was, no one wanted responsibility for three key roles; editorial, business management and advertising. A bit disappointing, but not surprising. Both Allie and I had been there – we knew what was involved. My health was a factor and after 20 years at the helm, it was time to leave.
To be sure, there were regrets. The paper had been a big part of our lives for more than a decade. My role had largely involved too much time securing advertising, editing, organising and more organising. Most of my writing involved short reports and fillers. There wasn’t enough time to write about Paekākāriki and its relationship with the wider world – even breaking local stories, which I wanted to cover, but couldn’t.
On the positive side however, I was always impressed, even pleasantly surprised with the finished product. Every issue! Especially the consistent quality of writing by our correspondents – all 600 plus. Some were obviously journalists or writers. Many others accurately and interestingly reflected some part of themselves or their community. We relished opinions from those who clearly knew their subject matter intimately – always the basis for good copy.
Obviously, there is a lot more to the Xpressed story. This is not the time, and I’m not the one to get into details of governance or fundraising – that’s for others for another time. However, I want to thank my wife Allie for her love and unending support. She was the other half of me, an essential part of Paekakariki Xpressed. An experienced journalist, her fundraising success and her contribution to overall governance made everything possible.
I like to think the Xpressed team have made a significant, even long- lasting contribution to Paekākāriki and its community.
A group of 11 friends gathered in the radio station that Don Polly helped to found, to record his last show for him and, here provide their dedications to him while he was in hospice. A Memorial Service for Don will be held 1pm Saturday 14 November and the entire day 8am to 11pm we will feature Don’s jazz shows back to back on the air at 88.2FM steaming at www.paekakariki.fm, or by downloading the app on your phone (search Paekakariki in your app store).
Paekakariki.nz is a community-built, funded and run website. All funds go to weekly running costs, with huge amounts of professional work donated behind the scenes. If you can help financially, at a time when many supporting local businesses are hurting, we have launched a donation gateway.