It’s been a privilege writing your stories

Kayla Hodge farewells the Oamaru Mail.

It’s weird to say goodbye to something that has had a big impact on your life.

It’s even weirder when you know you’re not going far.

Today is my last edition of the Oamaru Mail, but it is not my last day in the Oamaru newsroom. I’m joining fellow Mail alumni Hayden Meikle as a sports reporter at the Otago Daily Times.

I came to the Mail in October 2020, looking for a change after spending two-and-a-half years at our sister paper, The Ensign, in Gore.

Sport has, and will always be, my first love. Naturally, I was thrilled when I arrived in a strong sporting patch, filled with people who loved what they do and plenty of support behind them.

I’ve always believed everyone has a story to be told, whether it’s the local croquet champion or our top sporting stars reflecting on the Olympics.

Then I fell in love with the community stories, the fire brigades resurrecting themselves, the Pasifika community breaking new ground, and the everyday person with a remarkable back story. Each and every story has its place.

And now more than ever, there’s a need for local journalism, to celebrate, question and champion the district to be the best it can be.

There’s something about Waitaki and the people here — and that’s why I’ve decided to stay. I’ll split my time between the Oamaru newsroom and the ODT in my hometown, Dunedin, so you can’t get rid of me that easily.

I owe a huge amount of gratitude to former editor Rebecca Ryan, who looked after us all while creating the best community newspaper, and the entire Oamaru newsroom, especially Ashley Smyth, who has kept me sane during a challenging few months, Sally Rae and Sally Brooker.

And while I’ll never say it to his face, former Mail reporter Gus Patterson used his gift of the gab to convince me Waitaki would be a good fit for me — and I hate to say he’s right.

Then there’s you, the readers — thank you for trusting me with your stories, it’s been a privilege.

So this isn’t really a goodbye, it’s more of a see you around.

I’ll continue to champion the Oamaru Mail from the sidelines.