The Christmas holiday period has been good to Raglan this year with fine weather, good shopping and plenty of activities keeping holidaymakers busy.
However the holiday period was marred by the tragic loss of local Raa Smith, involved in one of the two accidents in Raglan on boxing day; the first being the plane crash near the packed Te Kopua bridge about 1.30pm.
Just a few hours later, 18-year-old Raa was flown to Waikato Hospital in a serious condition after a car accident on Wainui Road, near the one-way bridge, left him with head injuries. Sadly, he died in hospital on Sunday.
Police said it appeared Raa had been on the rear deck of a ute when the driver lost control and the vehicle slid down a 5-metre embankment, throwing him from the vehicle onto rocks. The cause of the accident was being investigated by the Waikato Serious Crash Unit.
Emergency services reported a few other callouts over the holiday period but had not dealt with any other fatalities.
The Raglan Chamber of Commerce reported good trading by its members over the holidays, with turnover up as much as 50 to 60 percent on this time last year, according to vice-chair Geoff Kelly.
He said it seemed there were a lot more visitors in town who were staying around longer and enjoying the good weather: “The vibe is just tremendous.”
Retailers, restaurants and cafes all seemed happy and the Sunday bus service had also been busy bringing people in and out of Raglan, which was good in terms of local employment – with restaurants still “screaming out” for staff – and the local economy, Geoff said.
Dave Hanna, from Raglan Ray White Real Estate, said the real estate company had been busier than usual and earlier than usual, with a lot more people seeming to arrive before Christmas this time.
He said he had not seen such interest in Raglan real estate since 2007. “I haven’t had time to come up for air.”
Raglan I-Site manger Te Aronui Maihi said horse-riding was one of the most popular activities of holiday-makers and the three riding companies on its books were fully booked between Christmas and New Year.
The information centre had also received lots of enquiries about walks in the area and the Wahine Moe cruises in the Raglan harbour, while the large number of activities on New Year’s Eve in the town seemed to attract lots of domestic tourists.
Raglan Police said there had been few incidents to mar holiday spirits.
Rain on New Year’s Eve made the evening reasonably quiet for police, which had had an extra 10 police officers from Te Awamutu and Hamilton on duty for the night, and only a couple of people were arrested for disorderly behaviour.
There were a couple of assaults at the Harbourview Hotel prior to New Year and several car break-ins were also reported.
Sergeant Neil Mouncher reminded holidaymakers to lock their cars and leave valuables out of view.
He also reminded beach-goers to observe the broken yellow line no parking zones down the access routes to Wainui Beach, which were crucial access ways for emergency vehicles. Several infringement notices had already been issued to cars parked there.
Raglan Coastguard reported a busy holiday period, with callouts to help an overturned vessel in Kawhia Harbour, to assist with the plane crash on Boxing Day, and to help various other boats with mechanical problems.
President Wally Hawken said the coastguard was generally very pleased with boaties, who seemed to be getting the safe boating message about wearing lifejackets, checking equipment and having at least two forms of communication on board.
He encouraged those going out in boats to continue making trip reports to the coastguard, and urged boaties to make use of the coastguard’s national promotion to exchange old lifejackets for heavily discounted new lifejackets. This would be available at the Raglan Wharf on February 11.
“The message [from the coastguard to boaties] is that our help is unconditional. We’re just happy to see them back safely,” Wally said.
The Westpac Rescue Helicopter was dispatched to Ruapuke beach, south of Raglan, on January 2 after a report of three swimmers in distress.
It appeared the swimmers had been caught in a rip, with one of them dragged 150 metres from the beach. All three were rescued and taken into the beach by surfers.
A 23-year-old Kawakawa man was subsequently winched aboard the helicopter and taken to Waikato Hospital for further evaluation and treatment after swallowing a large amount of seawater.
Community farewells ‘a son of Raglan’
Hundreds gathered at Poihakena Marae on Monday to farewell Raa Smith before he and his whanau made their journey down to Whakarewarewa Marae in Rotorua where he will be buried.
Raa was welcomed onto the marae by a 50-strong haka performed by his Raglan friends and family. A well-loved member of the community described as ‘handsome’ with an ‘infectious smile’ and with a promising future ahead studying at Toihoukura School of Maori Visual Art & Design, the community mourned the loss of a bright young star. Raa is survived by father Krishna, mother Rebecca and sister Waiata.