Most of her work has been for our sister paper, the Otago Daily Times, but reporter Shannon Gillies has also contributed regularly to the Oamaru Mail. She filed this farewell before her final day on Wednesday.
The journey is always made by the people you meet along the way.
Nearly two years after coming to Oamaru, I am leaving to pursue opportunities in my home community of Wellington.
During my time here, I have served as North Otago’s court, emergency services and basically anything else that happens reporter. And during that time, the best experiences have been meeting new and interesting people.
The people I have met have made my time here memorable, and I leave richer than when I arrived because of the North Otago community.
From attempting to pry information from Oamaru crime prevention police officer Sergeant Tony Woodbridge almost every single day of my Oamaru life, to hanging out at Oamaru District Court being wowed by some amazing defences put up by a great bunch of lawyers not afraid to go into bat for members of the public – it has been great job.
This town also has a regular judge who appears to want to get people back on their feet and into society as functioning members of it while showing care and concern for victims of crime and witnesses. I think 90% of the defendants probably would not be in court had Government agencies tasked with intervention processes acted when concerns were first raised about these people, but of course it would have been a huge help if these agencies were adequately funded and resourced to start with.
I have also enjoyed working with Waitaha, Ngai Tahu and Te Whare Koa Community Marae representatives when opportunities arose.
Getting to talk with Upoko Runaka o Moeraki chairman David Higgins, who has poachers in his sights as much as authorities who move slowly over safety at the Moeraki straight – a section of State Highway 1 which has seen so much death and trauma from vehicle crashes – has been a privilege.
Every single one of my interactions with community leaders and the public has been worthwhile.
A massive thank you to the team who I work with – especially Hamish MacLean and Daniel Birchfield, the outstanding North Otago reporting team. They have survived my eye rolls, poorly timed jokes and attempts to get them as woke as I would like them to be.
A special thank you to Sue Fraser, Sarah Miller and Sally Brooker who have supported me since day one with their grace and humour.
To the rest of the Oamaru Allied Press office: I hope you’ve enjoyed my sass. It is an acquired taste – I get that – but, honestly, would you have had it any other way?
Thank you to the baristas of Oamaru who, at first without question, would make me four-shot long blacks, and now have gradually begun to ask if I am OK and inquire about my health. Your concern is appreciated.
But North Otago is not without its problems.
There are still issues surrounding bigotry which need to be worked on if the district is to grow stronger. And it will, as new people move in and younger generations grow and realise different pigmentation and sexualities do not make a difference to the quality of someone’s character.
I would also suggest that, if people want to make a real difference to this district of beautiful landscapes, write to your MPs and get them to campaign for adequately funded mental health resources.
Do not be brushed aside. Campaign and get on top of drink driving cultures. Ask for help if you need it.