My name is Danielle Latham and this is my story

I do not live in Parker Road, nor have I ever lived in Parker Road. I did however grow up just across the valley in Rimu Road and at 17 years I left Oratia.

Oratia was and still is one of those communities that as a rebellious teenager I did not want to live in. Everyone knew everyone, you couldn’t do anything without one of your neighbours or a relative catching you out. I could not wait to get out in the real world away from the place where I was recognised daily and seemingly had no freedom.

So I left the confines of small town Oratia and ventured into the big wide world of Glen Eden!! Over the years I lived in a number of different towns and cities and now at 45 years old find myself back in the very place I could not wait to leave and oh how my perspective has changed.

I now look forward to bumping into those very people who recognise me still today, the same people whom I grew up with, whose parents grew up with my parents and whose grandparents spent time together. Why has my perspective changed so dramatically?? Not only have I grown up, but I have lost people along the way.

My grandmother Muriel Latham (nee Gash) lived at 142 Parker Road with my grandfather Albie, smack bang between two of her little brothers and just up the road from her other brother and sister. You have probably by now heard the Gash family story so I will not repeat it.

As children we grew up knowing the majority of our cousins, though most of them were a lot older than me, we still forged friendships and relationships that last to this day. We grew up swimming in Uncle Rustys pool and picking fruit from the Orchards my Great Uncles ran, then as we grew older, we spent time hanging out with Nana, (grandad died when we were young) who gave us cups of tea, always out of china tea cups, and when older again, shots of Uncle Roys home made liquers.

My Nana passed away 7 odd years ago, Uncle Rusty a few years later, Uncle Roy has passed as well and Aunty Doris, leaving us with Uncle Ken as the Patriarch of the family and the only one of the 5 still able to tell stories and pass on the legacy that was the five orphaned Gash children.

My father sadly passed away at the end of last year and now it has passed on to my generation to keep the stories and the heritage of our family alive for our children. We no longer have 142 Parker Road in our family, but we do still have the majority of our family living on the surrounding land.

If this water treatment plant goes ahead our friends and our family will lose what they hold so dear, lets start at Ross and Lee Viskovich’s house, here lives Tina, one of my younger brothers best friends and and someone I have come to know and admire recently, they will all lose their home.

Next door lives Graeme, my fathers cousin, Graeme is an exceptional human who over the last few months I have come to know well, he sung at my fathers funeral and is an asset to our family just like his father before him. He will lose his home and the home of his foster children.

Next door to him is Tulsi and her family. Tulsi is Graeme’s daughter and over the last few months has become a dear friend to me, she lives there with her four children who are now friends to my children, she will lose her home.

Next to Tulsi lives Jennifer Gash, wife to Uncle Rusty. Rusty was a wonderful man who along with Jennifer was very kind to me for many, many years and who was a great loss to this community, Jennifer will lose her home.

Just up the driveway from Jennifer lives Paul and Katherine Goldsmith, I grew up with Katherine, who was then a Marshall, we ran through the neighbours paddocks to play at each others houses, we went through playcentre, kindergarten, school, youth group, brownies, you name it we did it together. In our teenage years, Paul came along in the form of a stepson to Uncle Rusty and before you knew it, Kath and him we married and we were all family. They are very important people to me. There was a time in my life as a young, single mother, they showed me exceptional kindess and took my son and I under their wings, giving him things I could not, taking us on holiday with them, looking after him, simple things you may think, but things I have never forgotten, nor had a chance to repay. Kath and Paul and their three boys will not only lose their home but their business which they have worked exceptionally hard to establish.

Then we can start on the South site where my Dad’s cousins Lynn and Yvonne live along with their children, the list is long.

I have a slightly different perspective on this as I will not be losing my home. What I do understand though is how important the relationships and the land in Parker Road is to those who live there and their friends and family beyond Parker Road, these relationships and sense of community you cannot replace.

So I will battle on alongside them until this is over, I will battle on for a community I once could not wait to leave, and one I now hope I can live in for a long time to come.

And I would like to thank Watercare, for giving me the opportunity to rekindle relationships with families and friends long since past. For giving me the opportunity to forge new friendships and relationships with friends and family I have only just met. I thank them for making our community even stronger than it was, for forging a bond they don’t have a shit show in hell of ever breaking. And knowing the battle they have ahead of them if the decision goes against us, I almost have pity the folks that make up Watercare, this is a fight that we will never give up on.

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