One night a few years ago I was returning home from recording at the radio station. It was overcast and completely dark and my path took me through the reserve in the middle of Coopers Beach. On the way through the reserve I passed a group of young people partying loudly with alcohol. They verbally threatened me. I found it expedient to walk quickly down to the beach. I didn’t want to risk antagonizing any of them so I said nothing except ‘kia ora’.

The next morning I walked the beach. I picked up a few bits of plastic and stopped in at the reserve to discard them in the rubbish bin. I was shocked to find broken bottles all around the area where the young people had been the night before. I chastised myself for not having called the police the night before. Doing so may have prevented the mess.

Surviving CENTREPOINT COVERSurviving Centrepoint is reputably the first expose written by someone who actually lived at the time of Bert Potter’s and Centrepoint’s social experiment, a time of questionable sexual freedom, extremely limited parental guidance and home of New Zealand’s first methamphetamine lab. The author, now a mother of two in her thirties and a physician, does us all a service by being courageous enough to share her sometimes shocking experiences. Five of the girls at Centrepoint went on to become prostitutes. One committed suicide.

We in the Far North have been stunned by a recent chapter of sexual violation to our youngsters. I’m writing of James Parker. His paedophilic behaviour went on for an extended period of time. I wonder if there were those who suspected Parker’s behaviour but didn’t report this to the police at the time. If they had I wonder if some of the subsequent sexual violations could have been prevented.

Just as I could have prevented a relatively minor act of vandalism by calling the police one dark evening there are perhaps those of us who know of some abhorrent behaviour in their neighbourhood that can and should be reported. The police are not always able to administer a successful outcome but we at least need to alert them of potential risks to life and property.

Kaitaia is currently reeling from the Parker crime. Teachers at Kaitaia Intermediate and Kaitaia College are well aware of the repercussions in the behaviour of the affected boys. These young people need our sympathy and our help if they are to overcome the hurts of their experiences and not turn their pain into anger, confusion and questionable behaviour of their own.

Problems cannot be repaired if they are not addressed. Let’s be open and caring and err on the side of due diligence. Turning the other cheek doesn’t imply closing one’s eyes.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

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A few months back I was helping out in the i-SITE at Te Ahu. In walked a young, fit overseas traveller with an enormous backpack. He inquired about getting to CapeReinga. He was about to begin the Te Araroa Trail, New Zealand’s long walk. Now it isn’t every day one meets someone ambitious enough to walk the length of the country.  I had just begun dialogue with this enthusiastic visitor when in walked a fit young woman, also carrying a heavy backpack. She overheard our talk and piped in, “I’m also about to begin walking the Te Araroa Trail.”

Geoff Chappel writes the following in his introduction to Te Araroa: A Walking Guide to New Zealand’s Long Trail: “In 1976, two of my friends, Geoff Steven and Phil Dadson, had filmed and sound-recorded the Maori land march from CapeReinga to Wellington. The poet Hone Tuwhare was on that march and something he said then stuck in my mind. ‘To know Papatuanuku,’ said Hone, ‘you have to go through slowly, on foot.’ . . . In 1994 I wrote a newspaper story that invoked a long trail – a reincarnation of a path that had once existed and had been forgotten. This was unprovable but I believed it was true.”

Reading of this initial glimpse of a possibility through to a complete trail today (there are a few road links still but the intention is for the entire journey from the Cape to Bluff to be completely off-road) is at once fascinating and informative. Like any dream worth its weight, it has taken an incredible dose of persistence to see it through.

Te ara roa book coverTe Araroa is a beautiful book, outlining 113 walks and long tramps, replete with colour photos and 3D maps. I recommend it for any keen trampers, whether interested in a few good walks or ambitious enough to want to piece together trails spanning the length of the North and South islands.

The above book is found within our Aotearoa collection in Kaitaia Library.

Our two backpackers left the i-SITE side by side, one man and one woman, off to begin the journey of their young lives.  They walked with bouncing strides, despite the weight of their packs. They looked like they belonged together. I smiled, pleased to have played a small part in the serendipity of their meeting.  I mentally wished them well, trusting they would complete their ambitious tramp, the Long Walk, with hearts open, heads harvesting the whispers of Rangi, the Sky Father, and feet feeling the subtle thrumming of Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother. Perhaps we should all consider regular walks taken away from the insistent cacophony of the modern electronic world, attuning to the rhythms of nature, using physical exertion to rest our psyches and soothe our souls.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

Snow Queen Helen Yuretich and friends

Snow Queen Helen Yuretich and friends

I’ve shared before on the immense power and importance of volunteers in our communities. The Storylines Family Fun Day at Te Ahu on Saturday, August 17th was a shining tribute to the volunteer. Countless hours of preparation went into readying for the event. It wouldn’t even have happened but for the initiative and incredibly hard work of one person, Helen Yuretich. Her reward, as with all volunteers, is in the giving. But Helen and all the volunteers on the day deserve our votes of thanks.

Visitors to Storylines were perplexed to discover the community complex’s carparks were both full on what turned out to be a wild weather day. Once they found a place to park everyone was rewarded with a dynamic collage of activities spread throughout the building (and even outside in the case of the donkeys). No one could claim there wasn’t something of interest or inspiration for children or for the adults who accompanied them.

Stephen Yuretich entertaining children with donkey

Stephen Yuretich entertaining children with donkey

Storylines is New Zealand’s oldest annual literary festival, bringing together authors and illustrators with thousands of their young readers and supportive adults for the past twenty years. For those twenty years Storylines has been held in major centres around the country and for roughly the past six years Storylines has been celebrated in Northland as well. For the first time this year Storylines took place in Kaitaia. What a privilege and a treat for everyone concerned!

But again it couldn’t happen without the huge input of volunteers. Just to give one example, six face painters worked non-stop for the duration of the festival in Kaitaia. Students from Kaitaia College circulated throughout the building, providing information where needed and in some cases wearing costumes that children (and many adults) loved. Council staff volunteered their time as did teachers, individuals and in some cases entire families. The work for some was far from glamorous but people gave of their time willingly and with a smile..

For those of you who missed out on the event here is just a little recap. Children’s authors read aloud in the library. The atrium saw a near-continuous flow of entertainment from pianists, through Kaitaia College music students and a group that sang to their own ukulele accompaniment.

Facepainting

Facepainting

The main hall provided lots of arts and crafts, factopia, drum and didgeridoo lessons and even the opportunity to see illustrators at work. And the little theatre was host to one performance after another, each before a large audience.

Two thousand people passed the door counter in the library on the day. Although not an entirely accurate measure, this statistic alone indicates just how busy it was at Te Ahu for Storylines on Saturday, August 17th.  I for one would welcome the challenge of having this great annual event return to Kaitaia in the future, hopefully sooner than later.

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com

The halls are alive with the sound of music. Wiki Karena of Pukenui has taken advantage of the publically accessible Yamaha piano in the atrium at Te Ahu. Each time Wiki arrives in Kaitaia he takes time to tinkle the ivories.

“He loves to play,” says Wiki’s wife Norma, who often accompanies him on his musical forays into the acoustically-interesting atrium at Te Ahu. “The first thing he does in the morning is sit down to play on his piano. All the neighbours open their windows to enjoy the music.”

Wiki Karena was born in Te Kao in 1930. “I taught myself to play a piano that my auntie bought from a teacher leaving Te Kao School.” At the age of twelve Wiki left home to attend the Maori Boy’s Hostel in Auckland. After studying carpentry and completing his trade apprenticeship Wiki began work for Sir James Fletcher, hammering and sawing in state housing in Tamaki, Huntly and other areas. All told he laboured for thirty years on the harbour front in Auckland before retiring.

It was then that the Far North called Wiki home and he and Norma have lived in Pukenui ever since.

Wiki in the Atrium at Te Ahu

Wiki in the Atrium at Te Ahu

Te Ahu’s John Haines says: “Wiki has an uncanny knack for arriving just when a tour or other function is going on, prompting people to think his performance was arranged ahead of time. On the Saturday when Te Ahu’s art space was launched with exhibits by Robin Shepherd and Raewyn Crozier, Wiki was there.” At the time one visitor was overheard saying: “I could be in Auckland. We’ve got coffee, art and music. And this is Kaitaia!”

Wiki free-wheels through a broad range of easy listening favourites from artists as diverse as Perry Como, Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra. Visitors love it and often stop to chat with this talented octogenarian. Wiki takes it all in stride saying: “Not bad for someone who can’t read music.”

Radio host, librarian, inspirational speaker and health educator John Haines is the author of In Search of Simplicity: A True Story that Changes Lives and Beyond the Search, books to lift the spirit and touch the heart. See http://www.JohnHainesBooks.wordpress.com