Camping by the Wairoa


Summer seems to have been unrelentingly hot this year. After a totally unpromising start skies over Tauranga and the Western Bays have been a hard clear blue. Drought has been talked of. The Wairoa River glitters a hard onyx black not detering swimmers and bridge jumpers. For those enjoying Christmas time holiday camping it’s been perfect weather.

I recognise the black stars and sickle moon on the overall red background of one of the flags fluttering disconsolently in the Tauranga summer heat from the 2014 Pukehinahina Gate Pa commemorations. I know the black, red and white waves of the “tino rangatira” flag I’ve seen fluttering frantically in the windows of cars during election times.

A largish group is camped by the Wairoa River – summer camping. There’s a long, white open-sided tented roof over the dining area. Tents of various shapes, sizes and colours fringe the flat, grassed riverside area. There’s a new picnic table and benches cemented onto a concrete slab a river’s edge.

Over the summer weeks as I regularly drive over the Wairoa Bridge I peer into the camp site. I see people having meals, talking, playing and holidaying. I slow as young people are jumping off the bridge under the signs forbidding them to do so and remember jumping off the car ferry wharf under the signs forbidding me to do so. In the very early hours of market mornings I drive past closed tents and sleeping people.

This is summer. This is the Wairoa River. This is Tauranga.

Rosemary Balu


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