Te Puke – a town


Low cloud hangs on the Papamoa Hills this afternoon as I go back to Te Puke to see a filmed performance of an Elton John concert.  It’s harvest time in this predominantly rural and horticultural area.  Trucks with Eastpack pallets and containers go back and forth on the road while I’m photographing the exterior of the Capital Cinema.

This is kiwifruit country – it’s also maize and dairy country – flat plains in front of the Papamoa Hills reaching out to the coast and the sea.  If you’ve ever lived in a rural area you’ll know the amazing seasonal buzz created by silage making, haymaking and harvesting.  Tractors towing “Starwars” pieces of machinery reduce speed on roads and state highways; trucks loaded up with pale blue plastic covered bales the size of small cabins crawl by.  Heavily laden dusty truck and trailer units  straight off the paddock leave floating trails of the translucent outer skins of onions.  It’s impossible to avoid the excitement and intensity.  That’s what those repetitive little Eastpack trucks are creating this afternoon – harvest excitement.

But this afternoon the banners extolling the virtues of Te Puke hang limply, damp above the main street.   The War Memorial glowers darkly brown.  It looks as if it’s getting emotionally prepared for the forthcoming commemoration of ANZAC Day.  The Library and Western Bay of Plenty Regional Centre proudly vaunt the logo “Te Puke goodness grows here”  with its erstaz summer and kiwifruit colours gleaming despite the now early evening autumnal gloom.

I go off the main street and there opposite the Police Station with its prominent “Closed” sign is the old dairy factory -evidence of what happened here before kiwifruit took hold.  There’s the old shedding still standing but looking somewhat sorry for itself.    On the wall of another street are murals by local schools – public art starts early!

A wall at McDonalds is a huge image of a cut kiwfruit – the seeds flee the centre like large black tadpoles and the outer fine hairs look like the eyelashes of a dinosaur.   I ask a local young Mum if people still go to the cinema – yes it’s packed on Tuesdays – half price day and in the school holidays.    So apart from being an architectural suburban cinema gem, the Capitol Cinema functions as well as any big-box modern cinema in this town..

As I drove down from Tauranga bumping through roadworks, past the advancing concrete monolith that’s the new Eastern Link I think the thought that the local tourism people will have thought – an almost flat side road from Tauranga, down the Papamoa coastline and into Te Puke and back through heartland rural New Zealand – it’s a cyclist’s Sunday dream run.   Hope tourists aren’t directed along the new Highway!

If you are going down to Te Puke at the moment, watch the road signs at the roundabout – you go round to your right and not straight ahead!


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