My telephone number then was 7X, one of 4 on a party line. When I wanted to make a call I had to pick up the reciever first to listen if anyone was on the line, before cranking the handle to ask the operator for the number that I required. This could a frustrating time if the nieghbours were on a long call. When I recieved a call the phone would ring LONG-SHORT-SHORT-LONG twice! In my house I also heard the morse code rings of the nieghbours when they got calls as they heard mine when I was called. Even with this old fashioned system of telecommunication we had some of the conveniences of the modern era. We had call transfer and call waiting courtesy of the operators and also call follow you around the area as sometimes it didn't matter whose place you were at the calls could come. I even heard of a baby sitting service, where the phone was left off the hook for the operators to check in while the parents popped out to the nieghbours. It also seemed that the operators knew everything that was going on in the area.
As a small group of residents and farmers we challenged the Whangarei District Council on the condition of our road and we also challenged the New Zealand Post Office (as it was then) to get some action on our poor telephone lines, as everytime we had so much as a heavy dew the telephone cut out.
In 1984 as a recession in farming cut very deep and very hard for farmers, it seemed that we as a group of farmers along with others in the area took an initative to become quite radical and outspoken. At the time if we sold a sheep to the freezing works we actually got a bill, it cost the farmers money for sheep to be sent for slaughter and sale. We decided to stage a positive protest in the main street of Waipu (it was State Highway 1 then). With about 40 sheep slaughtered, frozen and cut into steaks we stopped traffic with 25 tractors driving up and down the main street holding up the traffic and handed out not only free sheep steaks but a one cent piece with each steak. We figured it would be better to give to a consumer rather than a multi national company. We then went on to lead a 7000 strong protest march on Parliament in Wellington. After that it was to Whangarei for a funeral march to symbolise the death of farming in NZ.
The protests didn't change anything at all.
In fact during this time the Government said that "no competent farmer will be forced from their land". Their definition of competent - meeting your mortgage repayments! Interest rate reached 20% during this time. So we entered survival mode and just survived, we couldn't even sell, as our land was now worth very little even if someone could be found to buy. During this time most of the farming wives found jobs off the farm and even some of the farmers found extra work off the farm just to survive.
What happened next (about 15 years later) in our valley, for those that survived the recession, was that land values rose to a point where farmers had a choice of struggling to make a living from farming or subdivide the land into 4 Hectare lifestyle blocks and sell these. The result of this is where there once was 12 houses in the valley there are now 41 with more blocks yet to be built on. This has happened all around the district.
It has been great for repopulating the valley and the rural district in general, however it appears that the sense of community hasn't arrived with the re-population, which feels sad for me when I think that I do not know half of the people that live on the road now. Now we all are racing around madly (and I'm included) making a living, basically just to survive economically with only 2 dairy farms (big ones), most others are working in town.
For a district that was settled 160 years ago by the Scottish arriving here via Nova Scotia, I am now the second longest resident of the valley, and I'm not a descendent of the early settlers.
Some would call this progress I guess.
For me the sense of community has become increasingly important as I get older and begin to realise the significance of the changing world we are all living in.