Mikaara | Māngere Bridge

“I was born and bred here. I was born on the mountain over here, Māngere Mountain with three other siblings.

In the day, it was a one-room tin shack with a wood stove and a coal range. So, we were brought up there. No running water. We had to go down to the bottom of the mountain there and collect water from the spring, but I guess the beautiful thing about this, let alone my connection to the mountain, is that the community here as as I recall, right through my childhood was always a friendly community. We built the Marae across the way.

Before the Marae, just across the bridge, we used to have just a big old hall, which was called the Māori Community Centre, and that’s where we used to take our dead. That’s where we used to celebrate our celebrations, and right behind the old Māori Community Centre was Mr Kerridge’s private zoo. It was all fenced off, but as kids the fun of hanging on the end of the fence, looking at all the animals, this was before Auckland Zoo was built. In fact I think he may have donated the land or all the animals that he had for the zoo. For us a Māori community and a Chinese community really lived very closely together. The market gardens here, my grandfather had some of those lands here, and then when the motorway was built the lands were taken under the Government’s Works Act, which they can do, which they can still do.

The community always shared, we shared a lot of fish. This area is really important to us as a people, for the te Tainui people, because the Māori king, King Tawhaio, this was his summer place. He used to dwell here. He’s got a house not far from here, but he used to camp down here on the seashore, because we had plenty of fish, and in those days we could go down at night. I could get sent down by my grandfather with a sugar bag and a spear and a lamp, and fill up half of that sugar bag to take back with flounder. So this area, it conjures up in my memory of people always sharing, and a sharing community is a healthy community. There’s nothing like it.

When I’ve looked around the world, and I’ve travelled the world extensively, it saddens me, because the world is in such turmoil, and, greed and power, these things still exist. We’re facing ah, challenges with our weather, with our seas, with the over-fishing. So, once again, this place gets a big tick from me, and from members of my family, and my children and my grand-children. The mountain means everything.

Maungarei is another mountain out at Panmure which belongs to my iwi, as well. So, Māngere Mountain, Māngere meaning lazy, so you can understand why people used to summer here and catch fish. So, what I say to the community is kia kaha. Kia kaha, be strong for your community, know your neighbour, know the children, greet the children. I walk every morning, and every morning I’m greeted by people as we pass, and that’s a good thing. If you can look at someone else’s eyes and greet them, and give a positive view or viewpoint of the day, whether it is raining or whatever, that’s the way a community should be.

Well, it’s been one year now since my aorta blew, and I bled out, and I shouldn’t have lived but I did, and apparently I died three times. It’s very difficult to talk to people openly about it but, for me, having the knowledge of having tasted death and seen which we call Hine-nui-te-Pō, the maiden of the night. She is the guardian of the night, who calls you to come to be with your ancestors, and I heard that call when I bled out, I died in the ambulance. So, getting back to this year, I’m going to enjoy as I always have done. I grow my own food, I love being around the creatures that live in my garden, they come to be fed. I share that love of my environment, trying my best to be kind to Papatūānuku, earth mother. So, this year I’m going to enjoy the gardens and all the things that come with it probably a bit more than I used to, although I’ve claimed I’ve always loved it.”

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