Our History


Petanque reaches NZ shores

 Chris Priestley, owner of Atomic Cafe and Herne Bay Petanque club president presented Greenpeace with $1000 as a gesture of our anti-nuclear stance. – Auckland City Harbour News, September 29, 1995

Chris Priestley, owner of Atomic Cafe and Herne Bay Petanque club president presented Greenpeace with $1000 as a gesture of our anti-nuclear stance.
– Auckland City Harbour News, September 29, 1995

Over the years, petanque has been played in many corners of the country: by New Zealanders returning from overseas and Europeans immigrating to these shores bringing their favourite game with them. From these humble beginnings the game of petanque has become a sport or leisure activity known to hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders.

In Auckland, The Esplanade in Devonport became the site of many pleasant Sunday afternoon get-togethers fostered by Devonport resident Jorg Schulze. The shell-covered path running alongside the waterfront was the perfect spot for a game or two, and was also the site of the first public tournaments in New Zealand. The first of these was organised by Chris Priestley in April 1992. The tournament was attended by 18 people, with Dave Thomas and Laurel Priestley taking out the top prize. In November 1992 Gavin Campbell, author of “Pétanque in New Zealand: more than just a ball game”, organised NZ’s first television coverage to promote the game at a well-attended afternoon gathering at Devonport, which aired on TV3.

In 1993, Chris Priestley’s Atomic Café in Ponsonby Road became a more and more popular meeting place for petanque players - the service lane out the back was a much-used terrain. Such was the passion for the game that when it was suggested by Cam Calder that a New Zealand Petanque Association be formed to promote and develop the game nationally and to liaise with the Federation International de Petanque et Jeu Provencal (FIPJP), the world governing body, the idea was greeted with enthusiasm. The NZPA was duly formed at a publicly advertised meeting at the Atomic Café in 1993. Chris Priestley was the foundation President, Jorg Shulze and Cam Calder shared the secretarial duties and Cam was additionally delegated the role of promoting the game. By 1998 New Zealand Petanque Association made an application for recognition and funding to the Hillary Commission (now known as Sport and Recreation New Zealand, SPARC). Some months later Petanque was accepted as a Kiwi Sport. Jorg Schulze designed the first logo for Kiwi Petanque in 1998. Later Regis Gomez was also involved in designing a logo.

Chris Priestley and Gavin Campbell cooperated in running a tournament in 2003, celebrating the tenth anniversary of the New Zealand Petanque Association, (now called Petanque NZ and based in Wellington).

The first Oceania Tournament was held in Sydney in June 1998. Herne Bay members Allan Fletcher, Ian Baker and Pam Jenkins were included in the New Zealand team. The tournament has been hosted by member nations every other year since then. In 2005, Oceania was held in Rotorua. Herne Bay member Anita Fletcher won the pointing competition, and New Zealand surprised visiting teams by winning the triples.

 Auckland City Harbour News, August, 1996

Auckland City Harbour News, August, 1996

Herne Bay Petanque Club formed

 Preparing the terrain

Preparing the terrain

The Herne Bay Petanque Club was formed in 1994 and was the first Auckland club to have its own clubrooms and terrain. The first officeholders were: President: Chris Priestley, Secretary: John Elliott, Treasurer: Laurel Priestley.

This amazing opportunity came about when the Herne Bay Ladies Bowling Club joined forces with the Ponsonby Men’s Bowling Club, leaving the Clubrooms at Salisbury Reserve available for lease. Chris Priestley became aware of the lease potential through his uncle Colin Priestley, the former green keeper of the Bowling Club, and the property was secured from the Auckland City Council by the Petanque Club under a joint lease arrangement with the West End Contract Bridge Club Inc. Years later the Bridge Club moved to other premises, leaving Herne Bay Petanque as the sole lessee of the property.

Chris and Laurel Priestley, Jorg Schulze, Zac Rees and Cam Calder worked with Lance of Better Bobcats and Redvale Lime to lay the original 1000 square metre terrain. Chris secured the use of a small steamroller for a couple of weeks in exchange for a tray of two dozen beer and the terrain was soon finished. (Some pictures of the events are now on display in the clubrooms.) The Herne Bay Petanque Club was so popular in its first year that Cam Calder was reimbursed the $5000 it cost to put in the terrain, and in addition Greenpeace was donated a sum close to $1000 following the Greenpeace fundraising tournament!

 Herne Bay terrain takes shape

Herne Bay terrain takes shape

The first club newsletter noted that Peugeot, Air New Zealand and Glengarry were the original sponsors of the terrain, tournaments and prizes, with sponsors allowed advertising boards around the edges of the terrain. The new committee also ran a triples tournament in which 81 teams took part. The number participating hasn’t been equalled since. It also reported that Colin Priestley had agreed to act as the caretaker of the new Club. Colin maintained his interest in the grounds and clubhouse till his retirement in June 2005. 

 Colin Priestley, caretaker at the Club until 2005

Colin Priestley, caretaker at the Club until 2005

The second newsletter in November 1995 recorded a visit from some expert players from New Caledonia. Special thanks were accorded to Cam Calder for his generosity in funding the laying of the pitch. There was a discussion regarding club T-shirts, and the setting up of a club singles ladder. Aqua t-shirts were subsequently printed with a logo designed by Jorg Schulz. That year the first New Zealand Triples Championship was held at Victoria Park, with Herne Bay members Chris Priestley, Jorg Schulze and Mick Sharpe taking out the title.

The Club was incorporated under the name of Herne Bay Petanque Club Society Inc. on 14 November, 1995. This was subsequently changed to the present name of Herne Bay Petanque Club Inc. on 27 March, 2000.

Corporate Days were initiated in early 1996, and have been administered by a succession of enthusiastic club supporters, including founding members Christian Fouquet and Laurel Priestley, and more recently Winifred Lamb and Norman Stanhope. These functions originally provided additional income to support the five Club representatives who were going to the World Championships in Germany, and have since been the source of the major part of the Club’s finances. 

In 1997, Jim Moody suggested to Rhys Johns from Takapuna U3A that when the weather turned cold, they should play at Salisbury Reserve on Thursday mornings, instead of braving the elements on the Devonport waterfront. The Thursday morning group was thereby established, and rapidly increased to over 30 members - a level it has remained at consistently to this day.

Also in that year, in association with Alliance Francaise d’Auckland, the Club established a secondary school triples tournament, which has been played each year since then at the Herne Bay terrain for the “Boules to You” cup.

 Laurel Priestley, Clem Boer and Steve Lawry at the Opening Ceremony, World Championship, Essen, 1996

Laurel Priestley, Clem Boer and Steve Lawry at the Opening Ceremony, World Championship, Essen, 1996

A feature of the “off season” in Auckland is the Herne Bay Winter Series which is held from June to August and is open to all players. Established in 1998 by Pam Jenkins, this popular event is a nine-week accumulated points’ tournament, with new partners being drawn for each of four games (doubles and triples formats). All profits from this tournament go towards the massive end of tournament prize pool.

In April 2006 the National triples were held at Herne Bay. On the Saturday there was torrential rain and the whole terrain became a sea of mud, making play very difficult and unpleasant. Sunday dawned clear and fine with bright sunshine but unfortunately this baked the previous day’s mud into hillocks and craters which sent the played boules in unexpected and uncontrollable directions.

 Allan Fletcher's favourite shirt designed by Steve Lawry in 1997

Allan Fletcher's favourite shirt designed by Steve Lawry in 1997

This experience convinced the club that serious measures were needed to ensure that this situation was never repeated. It was found that the original drains laid for the Herne Bay Women’s Bowling Club had collapsed over time and become totally clogged. Major renovations were undertaken, involving the removal of the surface layers to allow the placement of a whole new drainage system. The new drains carried water to a large sump which connected to the city drainage system. A permeable membrane was then laid, allowing the passage of water but preventing the upsurge of mud. Large grade roading metal was then compacted over the entire terrain before the spreading of finer metal to provide the playing surface. This major operation cost the club over $30,000 but was money well spent and has given us the world class terrain that we enjoy today.

In 2008, a major refurbishment of the kitchen took place, replacing the former set-up, which had a small sink near each end and a stove in the middle, with a more practical layout with plenty of bench space. Around the same time, Chris Beams’ enthusiasm sparked a major gardening initiative, including new planting, fruit trees and a herb and vege garden. Chris has since moved on, but the fruits of his labour continue to delight both the eyes and the tastebuds.

In 2010 the club hosted the Trans Tasman tournament, which was opened by then Member of Parliament Cam Calder. The players were welcomed with a traditional Maori waiata, performed by Mala Somersun. The tournament was a huge success for New Zealand, who won both the Open and Senior titles. Trophies were presented at a packed Sunday evening dinner ceremony, an event which delighted participants and showed our wonderful club in its best light.

 World Championship 2004: Allan Fletcher, Ian Baker, Richard Swaney and Christian Fouquet

World Championship 2004: Allan Fletcher, Ian Baker, Richard Swaney and Christian Fouquet

In 2011, the new club colour of forest green was adopted, and a new logo was created by Laurel Priestley. New shirts, jackets and caps were produced, and proved very popular, though the Herne Bay red shirts still make a regular appearance at local tournaments.

In 2012, it was noted that the terrains near the club were being subjected to far more wear and tear than the back terrains, so the committee undertook an investigation to find a suitable weather shelter to encourage players onto the back terrains. After much discussion, construction of an arched steel and canvas shelter in the centre of the terrain was completed, providing an alternative gathering spot and shelter for players.

Coaching has always freely offered by experienced club members of the Club including NZPA coach Christian Fouquet, but in 2015 Allan Fletcher took on the task of running weekly training sessions to encourage developing players and provide a comfortable environment for members to develop new skills. In 2017, Allan was awarded the prestigious PNZ Service Award.

Herne Bay members have consistently featured in the World Championships teams since the first NZ team attended in 1995, with the 2004 and 2005 teams being comprised entirely of players and coach from the Club (Ian Baker, Allan Fletcher, Christian Fouquet, Richard Swaney (2004) Christian Fouquet, David Lippard, Chris Priestley, Richard Swaney (2005).

Over the years, the Club has hosted many local, national and international tournaments. Our wonderful facilities have been the scene of many triumphs and disasters. From humble beginnings including the Greenpeace Fundraising tournament and the first Juniors’ tournament, the Club has grown from strength to strength, and can be proud of its reputation as being one of NZ’s largest and most established clubs.

Club history compiled by Beverley Morris,
Laurel Priestley and Ian Baker

News clips supplied by Chris Priestley