Although the first bowls were rolled in November 1946, the genesis of the club was 23 years earlier when Mr W M Field opened his first sub-division of land at the beach for residential purposes. 6,000 square metres of land on Rauparaha Street and the corner of Huiawa Street down to the Waimea stream was set aside for recreational purposes, specifically mentioning bowls, croquet and tennis as likely clubs. The land was vested in the Waikanae Ratepayers' Association Inc., which was required to lease the land in perpetuity at a peppercorn rental to appropriate clubs as they were formed.
The population of Waikanae was just 786 when an enthusiastic group of men canvassed the district to gauge the support for the establishment of a bowling club. The result was encouraging and an initial meeting was called on 9 March 1946 in the Domain Tennis Pavilion. Twenty-two intending members were present with Mr Arthur Daniel presiding. It was unanimously resolved "That the Waikanae Beach Bowling Club be formed and incorporated". The meeting proceeded to elect an executive for the remainder of the year to 30 June and dealt with finance, subscriptions, rules and the formation of the green. This was the birth of the men's club.
The first green - C Green.
The existing scrub and sand dunes were converted into a fine bowling green, for men only at the time, and consisting of just one Green - what we now know as C Green. The grounds were laid out with a pavilion and ancillary buildings to serve the needs of the club. A considerable amount of work was needed to do all this - landscape the grounds and provide the facilities. The club was fortunate in the composition of the thirty foundation members who comprised four builders, horticulturists and a good cross section of businessmen, farmers and retired people. Even so, it still took considerable time to complete the work. The initial Annual General Meeting was held in June 1946 and officers were elected. A year later, on 9 November 1947, the official opening of the 'new pavilion' was marked in an appropriate manner. The building, which still stands alongside the tennis club, was erected by voluntary labour.
At the end of the first decade the foundation members of the club would have been well satisfied that it was firmly established with 72 full playing men members and 12 associates. The nucleus of a women's club was also established.
Two important events marked the beginning of the second decade - the resignation of sixteen members to form the Waikanae Bowling Club and the formation of the Waikanae Beach Women's Bowling Club. This breakaway group, fourteen of whom were foundation members, had made a valuable contribution to the club. All but five served on the Executive in one or more positions and had been the backbone of the club since its formation. The President and other officers made strenuous efforts to avoid the break-away, but were unsuccessful as matters had proceeded too far. The reason for the resignations is not documented, but it was generally believed at the time that the club's policy of prohibiting the consumption of alcohol in the pavilion was the major factor. A small social room had been erected on the opposite side of the green to act as a 'bar', but the separation of members into two groups was not conducive to harmonious relationships in the club. However, the club recovered quickly from the loss of members by the influx of ten new members to commence the 1955-56 year with 67 players.
The second green - A Green.
The next noteworthy event was the decision of the Executive to develop the remaining land, on which it had an option, so that the women could have their own club. Ten women had formed what was called the Waikanae Women's Bowling Club (although it was located at the Beach club) earlier in 1954, and with one hundred pounds donated by Mrs E L Lorenzen purchased one acre on which A green and the main pavilion now stand. She also donated the cup for the Championship Fours. A foundation member, Mrs Lorenzen was the first life member receiving the award in 1957.
Over the next three years, with members of the men's club supplying most of the labour, and the women providing money and encouragement, the sand dunes were flattened, the green formed, hedges planted and the stream bridged. The green was in use by the end of the 1956-57 season. Until that time the women had playing rights on the men's green on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays (except during holiday periods). A pavilion to serve the needs of the women's club was of paramount importance and the members worked assiduously to this end. Assisted by bonds issued to members, a small building was erected in 1957, where the present pavilion now stands, at a contract price of $1470. A correspondent writing in a local paper in 1961 commented: "This very small but enthusiastic band founded what is now the Waikanae Women's Bowling Club. By dint of perseverance they acquired the land, laid down a Green and erected a pavilion - a remarkable effort from less than thirty members".
During the remainder of the 1960s the club operated successfully with a steady increase in membership. The maintenance of the green to an acceptable standard was a major problem and a continuing drain on finances, absorbing around 65% of the club's income.
In 1969 the playing surface of the green required major renovation and a sub-committee was set up to discuss combining resources with the men's club. After lengthy negotiations this was accomplished, with the amalgamation of the men's and woman's clubs in 1972. The women's section retained full control of their operations and finances. An annual maintenance fee was negotiated with the men's section for on-going costs and green maintenance, with additional contributions for special items.
The next few years saw significant improvements in the facilities at the club. A new kitchen, secretary's office and bar facilities provided in the pavilion, the two Greens were converted to Cotulla and new equipment purchased. Further resurfacing work was carried out to both A and C greens in successive years of 1990 and 1991.
A proposal from the County Council in 1969 to divert the Waimea stream away from the club grounds was accepted, but not completed until 1973. It was to take a further five years before the stream bed was filled and consolidated and the land available for development as a car park. The membership was boosted in 1974 with the influx of 32 new players, bringing the total membership to 132 of which 112 were full playing members. A steady increase occurred in the women's section at the same time to 81 with 66 playing members. These increased numbers began to place a strain on the two small pavilions. Proposals for a new pavilion were examined by the Executive in 1970, but progress was slow. The election of Sam Mudge as President and Bill Pearson as Vice-President in 1976 resulted in more positive progress. Both men were known for getting on with the job and, frustrated with the delay on the pavilion, set about the project with vigour. By the end of the season plans were approved, funds on hand and a contract signed for an addition to the small pavilion on A green at a cost of $35,614. This building was to serve a further seven years by which time the total membership was 286 with 230 full playing members. The building was ready for the official opening when early on the morning of 7 September 1984 fire swept through the older part causing considerable damage. The new additions, untouched by fire, suffered extensive smoke damage. The building was fully insured and contractors were employed to do the restoration work which was completed by Christmas 1984. While the fire was a traumatic experience, the club recovered well, and rebuilt a largely new clubroom with a modern enlarged kitchen, new bar facilities and new furnishings. As a result of work by the negotiating team, all costs were recovered.
The third green - B Green.
The opening of B Green in September 1993 marked the end of a saga to provide an all-weather green at the club. The first proposal in 1959 was abandoned due to the cost to the 70 members. The second study in 1985 was also rejected by the AGM because of cost. Not satisfied by the delay, it was not until 1992 when the Executive commissioned a further report that things started to move and a recommendation to proceed with the construction of a six-rink Astrograss green was approved. We know this today as B green. The construction of B Green was a major undertaking. A massive input was required to build up block retaining walls and provide fencing, concrete paths, seating, etc. To ensure a good playing surface, a minimum of 150 hours of heavy rolling was required. Hourly shifts from 7 am to 7 pm operated continuously for two weeks. While the preparation work on the green was time-consuming, the final result is a credit to those who worked on the project. At the time it was possibly the best Astrograss green in the district and an invaluable asset to the club, enabling play throughout the year. With the more recent addition of some ancillary structures, irrigation pumps etc., the club is today a modern bowling venue enjoyed by all local enthusiastic bowlers.
In 2011 another major makeover for A green was carried out which brought it back up to first class condition. At the same time a pipe drain was installed at the southern side of the green to stop flooding from excessive rainfall. The green was re-opened with a simple ceremony by President Tom Simpson on 14th December 2011 after being closed from the end of the previous season. During this time the green was virtually dug up and re-sown and the result was truly magnificent. It was a tribute to the dedicated hard work by club member Warwick Allen, who brought to the club a wealth of experience from having restored other greens in the past. The cost of this makeover, around $7000.00, was met with a grant from Kapiti Coast District Council, Waikanae Community Board, for which the club was most grateful.
In June 2016, having recognised that membership was falling and to ensure the continued viability of the club, the members voted to sell off A and B Greens and operate the club using only the original C Green. Part of the revenue raised from the sale was used to refurbish and modernise the old pavilion at C Green, which would become the clubs' new clubroom. The new facility was completed for the opening of the 2018/19 season and boasted new toilets including one for disabled persons, new kitchen and bar facilities, a large heat-pump and furniture commensurate with the new modern image of the club. This, along with the continued use of C Green, guaranteed the club's future as a quality venue for lawns bowls at Waikanae Beach. Indeed, with an influx of new members coinciding with these upgrades, the club's membership has seen a steady increase. At January 2020 the club is in a healthy financial position.
November 2021 saw the 75th anniversary of the club. A landmark in our history which featured a special gala for the occasion together with festivities throughout the year.
Part way through 2021 the club went into lockdown as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. The months which followed presented a raft of challenges. We had to adhere to government restrictions relating to mask wearing, social distancing and QR code scanning. This placed considerable pressure keeping to the scheduled playing dates for the duration of not one, but two summer seasons and at the close of the 2022 season, we reflected on this time as arguably the most challenging time in the club's history. We we got though it none the less.
Editors note: Most of the early comments in this history are extracts from the club's Golden Jubilee booklet produced in 1996. Syd Heppleson, who wrote the history in the booklet, was president in the 1986/87 season.
Below is a selection of early days photos. Considerably more pictures of the club's development and achievements over the years have been archived and are available.