New Year's Eve in Aramoana was a night to remember,
writes Tony Eyre.
Sunrise over Aramoana. Photo by Stephen Jaquiery.
''Writers are introverted people by nature,'' poet, novelist
and New Year's Honour recipient Diane Brown says.
As one who likes to string a few written words together, I
can relate to her conjecture, particularly on New Year's Eve
when my preference would be to see the old year out stretched
out on the couch at home with a glass of something, rather
than heading to some popular festive hot spot for the usual
With John Donne and a few revellers in the household
reminding me that ''no man is an island'', I reluctantly
accepted an invitation to a gig at the Aramoana Community
Hall where crib-owners and holiday-makers gather each year to
see in the New Year.
This popular coastal settlement, 27km from Dunedin, has long
been an attraction for weekend picnickers, seafood gatherers
and bird watchers. And notable aesthetes like Ralph Hotere
and James K. Baxter, drawn by Aramoana's beauty, have wrung
out time-honoured images in paint and poetry of this''pathway
to the sea''.
Driving from the expansive flats of Te Ngaru into the closed
in, maze-like Aramoana settlement, I could not help but feel
a sense of tragedy that devastated this tiny township back in
1990 - the massacre this close-knit community has tried to
move on from, despite the best efforts of film-makers or
inappropriate behaviour from insensitive sightseers.
As we pulled in to the Aramoana Domain, the community hall
was pulsating to the sound of popular local musician John
Fogarty belting out hit songs like Proud Mary from his
alter ego, John Fogerty of American rock band Creedence
Clearwater Revival. The night was still young as relaxed
partygoers slowly drifted into the hall from their evening
The chatter was friendly and familiar, as to be expected from
a community built on successive generations of crib
In any small rural or seaside township, the community hall is
at its heart and Aramoana's crib-style meeting point is no
exception. A huge sculptured royal albatross spreads its
wings in the rafters and a wall-mounted display of collected
seashells helps define this coastal village. A few days
earlier the hall had hosted the Aramoana League's
photographic display of the history of the village, including
images of the Save Aramoana Campaign - this staunch
community's 1980s resistance to a proposed aluminium smelter
in the area.
Night finally closed in and the steadily expanding crowd of
dancing revellers drifted outside to cheer on a visiting fire
entertainer. Stripped to the waist, this agile performer
whirled his flaming double baton around his head and gyrating
body, tossing the mesmerising circles high into the darkness.
Not missing a beat, Fogarty drew his crowd back into the hall
with Jerry Lee Lewis's Great Balls of Fire. The dance
floor was full of young and old. A grandmother coaxed her
perplexed grandson on to the floor to join in the rhythm. A
dog, searching for under-the-table scraps, was led by its
front paws into the middle to dance with a local Mr Bojangles
in his worn-out shoes. Others were content to sit around the
perimeter, having a drink and observing the dance-floor
With the witching hour fast approaching, it was time for the
introvert to take his leave. I could not even be persuaded by
Fogarty (or his Fogerty namesake) to ''let the Midnight
Special shine a light on me.''
As we drove out of the domain - our car headlights picking
out the surrounding macrocarpa and pine trees silhouetted
against the night sky - it was reassuring to know
salt-of-the-earth communities like Aramoana continue to
celebrate the good times as well as draw strength from the
bad times and ''can take a cup o' kindness yet, for auld lang
• Tony Eyre is a Dunedin writer.