Belmont Park winning battle against post-merge setbacks

The amalgamation in 2000 of the Bayswater Men’s and Women’s Bowling Clubs was hailed as a bold move to create the Belmont Park Bowling Club as a new 150-player club.  But the dream was never realised as membership fell by almost half and remains around 60.

President Martin Fitzsimmons explains that with the deaths of many elderly players from the 30-year-old clubs, the departures of those unhappy with the combined arrangement, and only a few new members meant numbers stagnated.  But Fitz says an on-going membership drive is underway to boost the current roll, which includes just six women and 10 socials.

“We are getting a few Navy men among a lot of young people coming in to try the sport,” he says. “Some Navy houses next door are being sold and will be replaced by apartments to be built in the next six to nine months.  So there is potential for more new members.”

“The club means so much to so many of us,” he says “so we are determined to keep it going.”

Fitz joined Belmont Park in 2009 and has been President for six years, overseeing its two carpet greens, only one of which is used because of the low membership. The other was late last year badly damaged by a group of (presumably) kids on bicycles who tore up the surface with high-speed skids and wheelies.

“There is public access right through the council-owned club night and day,” Fitz says, “but no-one saw them. We patched the damage but the whole lot must come off.  Replacement will cost us $140,000 – for a green which had three or four seasons left in it.”

The club’s fundraising programme, which includes garage sales, will help pay for the resurfacing. The Club’s large clubhouse with full bar, kitchen and dining facilities is also a big money-earner and is used regularly by local business and community groups.

One of the most popular is the monthly Kaitahi (shared food) dinner organised by ‘Shore to Thrive’.  Shore to Thrive leader Steve McLuckie says Kaitahi is a community dining initiative aiming to bring people together, based on a similar venture begun in Point Chevalier in late 2015. Shore to Thrive started at Belmont Park in September last year, and has attracted around 60 to its eat-ins and talk-fests.  130 turned up for Christmas dinner.

Kiwi Harvest supplies Shore to Thrive for its Belmont Park meals, collecting past use-by date groceries and vegetables from supermarkets and other outlets.

“We are bringing a diversity of people together in the community – using food that would otherwise go to waste at the dump or be fed to pigs,” Steve says. “It makes the community a better and happier place.  And it’s fun.”

“We never know what food we are going to get until it is delivered on the day. There are some ingenious last-minute menus and surprises for our diners.”

Bowls NZ


– Graeme Kennedy