Under the umbrella of the Whaingaroa/Raglan Destination Management Organisation (WRDMO), the Whaingaroa/Raglan iHub is Raglan’s visitor information one-stop shop catering for both locals and visitors. The iHub is located where the old i-site was in the Raglan museum foyer. The iHub is run by a team of dedicated volunteers who are affectionately known as the “ihubbers.” One of those volunteers is John Grenside, who also happens to be an active member of our local Volunteer Coastguard crew.
I had the opportunity recently to learn more about how he became involved with the iHub team and what he loves about being in Raglan.
What inspired you to come live in Raglan?
I was born and raised in Taumarunui, Ruapehu is my mountain and Whanganui is my river. I spent the last 40 years in Hamilton, along with my wife Sandra, running a distribution business that supplied cafes in the Waikato. However, my next love after family, is surfing, which led us to seek a change in direction and lifestyle. Finally, we made the move to Raglan a year ago and became one of the shiny new people who have set up in Rangitahi.
Can you tell us a bit about the Whaingaroa/Raglan iHub?
The iHub is made up of a diverse group of people of all ages and experience, all with the common goal of making visitors feel welcome. Not much has changed when you read the history of Whaingaroa-Raglan. Māori were very giving with their time, labour, food, and land. Possibly, if they had known the outcome, it would have been a different story, but that’s a whole story on its own!
How did you become involved with the iHub team?
I saw a request for volunteers on the Waikato volunteering website and was looking for a way to become involved in the community and form new connections. When I met with Jaqueline Anderson, the iHub Manager, it was a good fit since my work time is flexible and it was a small commitment in actual time. In-depth knowledge of Raglan was not a prerequisite but more of a willingness to listen, and the use of Google has been invaluable.
What do you love about being in Raglan?
I was obviously drawn to Raglan for the surf and sun, but since setting up home here, my wife and I have come to realise that the town is much more than just a surf destination. There are not many small towns of less than 4000 people that can boast the best left-hand break, two radio stations, a movie theatre, performing arts, an artisan bakery, a brewery, a mountain bike park, a big arts and craft scene, a night venue the envy of larger cities, every club under the sun you could think of, great food and coffee. But more importantly, it’s the people. We love the diversity of cultures that make up Raglan, underpinned by local hapu/ iwi, who have obviously shaped a lot of what makes Whaingaroa-Raglan what it is today. It’s also cool to hear and see the different languages/cultures that are contributing to the richness of Raglan.
What is your role as a volunteer at the iHub?
As a volunteer at the iHub, I serve as a conduit between locals, businesses, clubs, and anything Raglan, and the visitors who are looking for information about and on Raglan and to a lesser degree, the Waikato region. The most common questions are: what can we do, what can we see, and where can I stay? The iHub is being very proactive in setting up a digital platform, which will aid visitors in finding that information, plus it advertises our businesses including accommodation, activity providers, cafe’s and much more. We are also a retailer of all things crafty that are produced in Raglan. This helps fund iHub operations.
What do you think are the biggest challenges for Raglan?
The biggest challenge for Raglan is to keep that uniqueness that is Raglan. We are still super popular going by the numbers of visitors coming through the iHub combined with Kiwis wanting a change in lifestyles. I don’t think anyone wants Raglan to become the next Byron Bay. Hopefully, with the work of the DMO, Raglan Naturally, the Raglan Business Chamber, other organizations and community, we can proactively influence our visitor development while keeping Raglan’s special vibe. Clean water and sea would be the other challenge, along with sustainable development.
Interested in becoming an iHub volunteer like John? Contact Jacqueline at email@example.com for more information on how you can get involved. We would love to hear from you!