The Crossroads

In 1994, after a couple of years of being a bystander, helper, trailer driver, tour leader, raving fan, sounding board and general nuisance, I was asked (I would now say coerced) by a few of the club "heavies". To run for President.

The club was at a crossroads, like most clubs go through at some stage or another, sort of like when a baby goes from a crawl to a walk, well little did I realise at the time what a minefield, sorry "challenge", that lay ahead.

The club basically was insolvent!  I mean that in the nicest possible way and I do not want it to reflect in any way on the previous executive.  It just was the reality. The Club had grown fast, with limited community support or infrastructure and was sort of running before we had learnt to walk properly.
We had no constitution, no by-laws, no approved canoe storage facility, ineffective membership control, sponsorship issues and equipment in disrepair and to put the icing on the cake, we owed $2,000 to the Smith family (not the charity. That's Bob and Wendy Smith, now life members).

This is not to say that there was not a lot of positiveness around, it just needed a helping hand and some strategic direction. In the next 18 months our committee had set in place solid foundations. Well, 18 months later, I hear you question? That was another sorry problem, sorry "challenge", let me explain.
The season back then basically finished in September, which was the time of the AGM. This posed a situation, where the club basically went into recess with a newly elected committee, with not much to do for the first 6 months. As such, with a special general meeting, we successfully moved that the AGM be shifted to February hence my 18 month tenure.

Some of the interesting highlights during my eventful journey as President, which was ably supported by a great  committee (special thanks to Wendy Smith, Bob Smith, John van Zantan, Christine Dixon (nee Ozanne) and Melinda Garland) are as follows:

Final negotiation and construction of the club compound, all of which costs $1pa. (GST?).  By the way, the initial approval was in Organ Park but got overturned by local influence.  We had to step into another sacred ground, "the beachside caravan park" to get our final approval.  If you think it is small, think again.  In the negotiation, we managed to get one additional caravan bay, if we agreed to come back from the edge of the dunes.  We reluctantly accepted as it also gave us better access to the roadways (calmed down the whingers!).

  • Doubling of membership (yes fee-payers) from around 65 to 130 (bring on the parties!).
  • Firmly established our regatta as the "best" outside the Nationals (bring on the dancing girls!).
  • Finalised our constitution and by-laws, many of which still are in effect today (saved our bacon).
  • Paid back Bob and Wendy Smith, leaving the club at the end of our stay with some $12,000 in the bank (saved more of our bacon).
  • Incorporated the Kingfisher Bay Club, which brought with them some great members, $2,500 and about 80% of the plastic paddles that are still used today. (stopped the local in-fighting)
  • Helped in the establishment of the Bundaberg Club and training of its new paddlers (bring on some local competition!).
  • Cleaned up most of the sponsorship issues and re established a relationship with the Kingfisher Bay Resort (raised community and business awareness!).
  • Took the stock of OC6 canoes from 3 to 5 fully owned.  Purchased the first OC1 (increased the noise pollution in the Bay with lots more hut-ho's!).
  • Set up pub fundraising, which through the 60/40 arrangement directed some $18,000 to individual teams and members (instrumental in really lighting the fuse for us to become "socially" competitive!).
  • Developed paddler skills through weekend coaching clinics (created a host of "experts"?).
  • Established a "temporary" clubhouse at the Maryborough Sailing Club (longer parties, oh heck it used to hurt!).

In closing, what a great experience and one that I can now say I do not regret.  It had its great highs and desperate lows but what I remember most of all, is the friends I made and still today. Thanks for the memories and having the opportunity to add to the clubs tradition in its first 10 years.

Robert Garland