Te haerenga: the journey

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutoa katoa. Ko Holly Jane Ewens a hau.

Transience is an important contributor to the colourful make-up of our village and, reflecting on our heritage, it seems it’s always been so.

Our mana whenua, Ngāti Haumia journeyed here from Kawhia. We were the coach stop and watering-hole along the postal route, then a stop-over on the Main Trunk Line. We were host to thousands of US Marines and welcomed as we continue to do, weekend holiday-makers. People come and people go in Paekākāriki, some wistfully move on while others put down roots. Some come back again, and some never leave. This injection of fresh energy adds diversity and surprise, differentiating us from our Kāpiti cousins further up the coast.

I moved to Paekākāriki from Hawke’s Bay, newly knocked-up at the tender age of twenty. That was back in ’96. That was back when the the dance hall next to the old pub hosted world-famous-in-Wellington ska gigs. Back when the pub tables were long and high and came with built-in ashtrays. Back when we had a vacant church hall on the corner in need of a paint job. Back when the library was a cold nook off the post office teetering with books on the opposite corner. It was in that little room, huddled next to a heater, that I found my first foray into Paekakariki’s volunteering culture.

My folks were community people: Lions, Jaycees, PTA, sporting coaches — you get my drift. I benefited from the connectedness that community mahi brings. Doing something for nothing brings unexpected rewards with unexpected people. That volunteering spirit continues in me today.

By the time I was twenty-three, my partner Simon and I had three preschoolers and lived in a variety of rentals around the village and even for a while (shock horror!) outside the village when accommodation was hard to find. Seems not so much has changed. My current involvement as a trustee on the Paekākāriki Housing Trust confirms that rental accommodation is indeed tougher than it’s ever been.  

By age twenty-seven my life was upside-down: suddenly I was a widow with three young kids. It takes a village, right? Thankfully, I was in one. I learnt the kindness of Paekākāriki in the most real and meaningful way possible.

I formed a band, Rosy Tin Teacaddy and started inviting some other acts we were touring with to come and play at that vacant church hall on the corner, still in need of a paint job and power sockets (we ran a multi-plug off the oven for the PA). Audiences embraced the new opportunity to dance or to listen and musicians loved playing here. St Peter’s Hall was now on the touring circuit.

Thanks to the work of our Community Trust, St Peter’s Hall now has stage lights, a paint job and a much flasher oven that you can’t and don’t need to plug an amplifier into. Across the road the post-office is ruminating on it’s next incarnation and the library has found a home in a sunnier spot around the corner. My three eldest children are young adults, thankful for the neighbourliness, caring and sea swims which punctuated their upbringing. And I’ve got another, younger bunch of kids with my partner Tim, our youngest a new entrant at Paekākāriki School. He likes to point out the artwork of his older siblings, still gracing the grounds some decades later. Life can be a circuitous route, but it’s never exactly the same.

I’m a current member of the Paekākāriki Community Board and passionate about community engagement. I also teach music and continue to perform. As a part of the community collective that developed Paekakariki.nz, I’m now thrilled to add Coordinating Editor of this site to my work portfolio.

Paekakariki.nz is your one-stop shop for all things Paekākāriki. It’s the link you share with your in-laws who are visiting and need somewhere to stay. It’s the first place you go to to check what gigs are on and what time that yoga class starts. When does the dairy close? Need a plumber, eyelash extensions or, even, prayer? Look here. It’s a quick connection to check the train timetable and a digital portal for a leisurely Paekākāriki fix for those of you who once called this place home and miss the connection.

It’s a navigation guide for new faces. It’s a landing place for the long journey or the short stay. Paekākāriki is an engaged, pro-active and diverse community. If you live here, you’re lucky, if you don’t — you probably wish you did.

Nau mai, haere mai. We welcome you all.


Photograph by Himiona Grace