Jeff Friis GP
In an article originally written for the Katikati Advertiser and since expanded for this website Dr Jeff Friis remembers his arrival in Katikati in 1978 and comments on a variety of local and national issues.

left: Jeff Friis, local GP for over 20 years and Jaguar enthusiast for life.

On the 20 February 1978, on the eve of the Katikati boom, I commenced solo General Practice in Katikati, working on my own from my home for the next 4 years. Being mindful of Katikati's immigrant origins, I employed an Irish nurse, who did everything from vacuuming to appointment-taking, to changes of dressings, to sometimes hauling me out of bed on a cold morning with a cup of tea. My lounge was my waiting room, my bedroom my consulting room. Patients could smell what I was cooking for dinner. One of my patients used to count the cars outside my home surgery. If over 10 cars, she would have her husband deliver a gourmet dinner on a silver tray to me, a sort of upmarket "meals on wheel

Katikati had a total population of about 2800, two newspapers ( Katikati Advertiser and Korero ), 60 clubs, and was almost operated as a 'fiefdom' by the leading families, some of whom were suspicious of strangers. My own arrival was accompanied by intrigue and controversy. A posse met me some weeks before and, amongst other things, told me to practice elsewhere, even suggesting towns I might like. I was told it would take 25 years before I would be accepted as a local, although the coming Kiwifruit boom soon meant you were regarded as a local after 3 months.

Jeff Friis ready for business in the consulting rooms he set up in his Park Road home in 1978.
Katikati had a manual telephone exchange, amongst the last in New Zealand. The night operator regularly fell asleep, and one had to drive to the exchange, wake him up, after which you made your call. It was a toll call to Tauranga, till an enterprising local measured the distance between the two Post Offices in his truck, and discovered it was just 1 kilometre less than the Post Office regulations deemed should be a toll call. All local subscribers got a refund and free phone calls to Tauranga from then on. The operators spoiled me with their service and I had a desirable private line. No morse code party lines for the Doctor. Once I was phoned about a patient who had collapsed from a bee sting, and was truly about to breath her last. In my excitement, I hung up without obtaining the address. Panic! But the girls on the exchange rose to the occasion. One remembered the call came from Springs Rd, rang everyone up on the party line, and located the patient. Whew!

There were two one-lane bridges between Katikati and Tauranga, strategically placed at right angles to the road according to the best engineering principles of the time, thus ensuring a steady supply of patients as cars simply flew off the end. 'Road Fatalities increase since arrival of new Doctor' screamed a local newspaper headline.

I remember the characters, like the local who widely advertised 'Potplants for sale' from his nursery. No misleading advertising here, they were all marijuana plants. Radio BOP awarded me the 'Wally of the Week' for 'stealing' a friend's car and being arrested by an irate youthful cop who failed to see the funny side of it.

But Katikati has always impressed me with its enthusiastic 'can do' people. People here don't say 'why' but rather 'why not?' It was the local people's enthusiasm that brought us the Dave Hume Pool, Katikati Squash Club, Murals, Moore Park, Resource Centre, Community Beds at Lexham Park, Keep Katikati Beautiful, Katikati Medical Centre, Aongatete Outdoors Pursuits Centre, Community Health Trust, to name a few. It is a joy to see the enthusiastic participation of numerous people in various summer twilight sports, as well as the Garden tours and bands.

Jeff Friis, Tessa Turnbull, and Paul Goldstraw with Dr Joe.
There have been opportunities as well. Whatever happened to the Maori Waka on the Uretara River? Wouldn't it be great if the Uretara could be dredged? A cafeteria/restaurant on the river bank? Flowering cherry trees (or Kowhai) on the Uretara river banks in town? With little effort, downtown Katikati could be a miniature Christchurch with the Uretara and Kaimais as magnificent adjuncts.

I deplore the developing Kiwi culture to whine and complain, and the mushrooming agencies solely devoted to encouraging a victim mentality. Hidden cameras, compulsory reporting, 'agent provocateurs' reporting on dairies selling cigarettes to minors, advocacy groups (all set up with the best of intentions), have a sinister overtone, and encourage mistrust. New Zealand is now amongst the most regulated countries in the world, and would make the former USSR jealous. The 'paper mountain', formerly a means to an end, is now an end in itself, threatening to engulf us all. Seeing a Doctor can be like sitting School Certificate as patient and Doctor fill out myriad mind-numbing forms. Whinging Poms have nothing on Moaning Kiwis. Accountability is rapidly being confused with vengeance. New Zealand is loosing its sense of humour. I find 'Aussie Bashing' as practised by some sports commentators and sports-followers childish.

Katikati must not lose its positive caring character. Its very appeal can easily lead to its spoiling. It would be a pity to lose its character and lifestyle in the name of progress. Just as some painful decisions are made in the rationing of Health Care, equally painful decisions will one day have to be made on the use and development of land.

Just get on with the job, make the most of what life offers you, don't pick on others, and leave something behind for others to enjoy and remember you by.