Welcome to this series about Tikitiki from Tairawhiti. Enjoy the philosophies of this famous feline as he journeys around the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand.
Hullo. My name is Tikitiki. They call me Tick for short, and I am an awesome cat. I live on the campus of the local Gisborne Polytechnic. That is where I was born.
Three of us were born in December 2010 at the Polytechnic. That was me, my brother and my sister. We were named Polly, Tick and Nick — that adds up to Polytechnic. The man who named us was a Computer Tutor named Nick, who also decided to look after the three of us, and feed us.
Aren’t I handsome?
Nick and others at the Polytechnic ensured that we were neutered and spayed. He said he didn’t need any more cats being bred. We were looked after very well. However, Polly found a better home which fed her “gourmet” pet food.
Me and Nick were quite happy, until Nick the computer tutor left the Polytechnic in December 2013. Then Nick the tutor was in hospital with a big problem with his right leg. I had told him to be careful, but he didn’t understand me.
Nick, the tutor, recovered from his leg problem. He came to see me and Nick in July 2014, and brought us a feed of sardines. Yummy!!
I decided to sneak into the back seat of his car when he wasn’t looking. We went for a very long ride. When he finally stopped, I jumped out. I found myself in a church yard, which I found out later was a very special church yard. I will tell you more.
It was St Mary’s church at Tikitiki. Gee, did they name the town after me? No.
Historic St Mary’s church at Tikitiki.
Tikitiki is a small town on the north bank of the Waiapu River in the Gisborne Region of the North Island of New Zealand. Tikitiki is 145 km (90 mi) north-northeast of Gisborne, 20 km (12 mi) northeast by north of Ruatōria, and 24 km (15 mi) south by east of Te Araroa. The name of the town comes from the full name of Māui, Māui-tikitiki-a-Taranga (Māui wrapped in the topknot of Taranga). State Highway 35 passes through the town at the easternmost point of the New Zealand State Highway network
Six kilometers away along the river is the smaller town of Rangitukia, near the mouth of the Waiapu River. These were once bustling towns. They had a racecourse, four rugby teams, and several shops fuelled by a thriving dairy industry. In the 1950s and 60s the towns had a combined population of 6,000, but economic downturn in the area in the mid to late 60s led to urban drift, and 2011 figures put the population of both towns at 528.
The most exciting recent event was clearly my arrival. I can hunt my food quite capably in the churchyard and the cemetery, but from time to time I go visiting. People in Tikitiki are willing to feed me.
95% of the towns’ inhabitants identify as Māori. Most people in these towns are either homemakers, or employed in the roading, forestry, farming, or food industries, or as office workers
“Tikitiki’s jewel” is clearly St. Mary’s church. It is non-denominational but has historic links to the Anglican Church and is therefore essentially an Anglican. How interesting – there was an Anglican church opposite the Gisborne Polytechnic, where my brother Nick and I used to hunt mice.
St Mary’s was built from 1924 to 1926 under the guidance of Sir Āpirana Ngata, a very famous forefather, whose great grandchildren still feed me. It was established to remember the Ngāti Porou soldiers who fought and died in World War I, and to commemorate the establishment of Christianity in Waiapu Valley and the East Coast. The church integrates Māori architecture into its design, and contains references to the fallen soldiers within its extensive carvings, tukutuku, and stained-glass windows.
St Mary’s church is of great spiritual and historical significance to Ngāti Porou, and is classified as a Category 1 Historic Place by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust. My presence as honoury caretaker ensures that this church is revered as it should be.
Above and behind the church is a hill containing the remains of a fortified pā called Pukemaire. The pā dates back to pre-European times, and by 1865 was occupied by followers of the syncretic Christian Māori religion, Pai Mārire. That year, as part of the New Zealand Wars, the pā was attacked by both colonial forces and Ngāti Porou forces loyal to the New Zealand Government (called kūpapa). This was one of the last confrontations between Pai Mārire and Ngāti Porou.
While the majority of the area inside the pā’s defensive perimeter has been ploughed many times, the eastern end behind St Mary’s Church has been left intact, where the remains of kūmara storage pits can be seen.
I don’t like kūmara or potatoes, but my friend Wiremu Ngata likes both. It’s a funny small world – Wiremu Ngata used to work with Nick the Computer tutor in the Air Force. Wiremu has told me some good stories about Nick in his younger days!
Tikitiki is a wonderful place. So is the East Coast of the North Island of New Zealand. There will be a few things I have mentioned that you should research, such as Wiremu’s great grandfather Sir Apirana Ngata. A true legend, and awesome like me.
I look forward to telling about some of my other adventures.
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Nick Thorne is the founder of NicksDigitalSolutions Limited a company that specialises in Education, Training and Writing. He lives in Levin, New Zealand