Whakamarama: Down the hall on …..


The Whakamarama Hall has a heartland site in the Whakamarama rural district north-west of Tauranga in the Bay of Plenty.

Whakamarama, a rural district with a somewhat chequered history, is in a state of transition from traditional rural to urban fringe lifestyle and intensive lifestyle business uses. The hall, opposite the historic Whakamarama School, like the district itself has been undergoing not only a rejuvenating change in use but a change in affection and appearance. The exterior was repainted. The hall was rebranded as a “community centre” and a variety of activities have been started.

The most notable of the hall-based activities are the monthly TWIF (Thank Whaka it’s Friday) social gatherings. Bring some food and show up to meet and talk with your district neighbours. I’ve only managed to show up once as I’ve a long-standing Friday commitment elsewhere. Driving home I see small clusters of cars and bright lights. A Library has been started in the small room off the foyer. Books have been donated so the range of content is eclectic.

Down the line came one of netretary Colin Hewen”s missives: the hall ceiling (and lighting) are being upgraded and walls are being repainted. There are two opportunities to show willing. If you can’t be there on the main working bee day (Saturday) you can shuffle along on the Friday morning. There’s a door in the community centre in the district we left that’s “our door”, varnished by us. We became stakeholders through participation.

I gather together a selection of “small hand tools”. When I arrive at the hall on an unseasonally cold, windy and rainy morning, there’s a line of cars on the small tarmac area. Inside there’s all sorts of busyness going on. Up ladders removing the picture wire complete with remnants of previous festivities. Pulling staples and nails from walls. Wiping down heavy marks on the painted walls. And, packing the Library into the kitchen. And there’s a small group of little boys up on the corner stage playing together oblivious to the activities around the hall and their attendance at a life-changing event for the district hall. People I’ve met before greet me warmly and put me to work pulling staples out of the hall walls.

I pull a few staples out of the wall around the stage. I talk with another woman who tells me she and her adult family are new to the district. I know the house and property they’ve bought. I’ve been there to a meeting. Like an old identity of my former district who referred to all newcomers by the family name of the original property owners, I mentally place her as living in “the Dreissen house”.

Photo0433I engage the little boys in conversation. They’re delightful young men, happily playing together without adult intervention or supervision. I’m back in the hall before the playcentre was built, covered in embarrassment because my toddler daughter delights in water and is flicking it round the hall from the small plastic bowl that was designated the “water play area”.

It’s quite clear that I’m short, don’t have a ladder and someone’s already been around at this level: the walls clear of staples and punctuated by numerous acne-type pits. I decide I might be more use in the Library.

Photo0432The Library didn’t look that big, until it had to be carried over the foyer through to the large, country hall kitchen. Then there’s a considerable weight of words and paper to be transported. All sorts of people have come to help, even someone’s mother holidaying from England. Can we keep the books in their categories? So we transport small piles of books, eating our way down shelves like a caterpillar on the march. The small piles become large piles on the benches against the back wall of the kitchen, in boxes under the servery bench.

Photo0434Soon the shelves are empty. We move the shelving into the middle of the room. It’s clear some of the shelves are dodgy and rickety, so we pack them in to prevent disintegration and label them. Down come the curtains and into those large $2 shop bags of enormous capacity, ready for their trip to the curtain cleaners.

The kitchen servery is covered with cups and saucers, containers of coffee, tea, herb teas, milk and sugar and an array of morning tea goodies. acknowledged amazing cook Joanne Wiggett is in complete control of the proceedings and the big old hall teapot, despite the straggling book caravan through the kitchen. Traditional scones are buttered and jammed, delicious cakes are cut, containers are opened to display slices both conventional and gluten-free. There’s a big container of fabulous chocolate chip biscuits.

Photo0431Time is called on the work gang and morning tea is served. We sit in a circle on the old hall chairs, cups in hand. I try everything I can. There’s something about a country morning tea. I ask for recipes to share through ARTbop. I feel like a fraud eating all these goodies and doing relatively so little work.

It’s all over. No I haven’t done a lot of work but I’ve engaged with a slice of the people in my district and I’ve been given an opportunity to meet and talk with people I’ve not met before.

There’s no doubt the district is growing and developing. There are extensive slashes and excavations through the green of paddocks. There are big new houses visible from the road or from sudden flashes behind established trees and shelter belts. The Whakamarama School role is increasing. . There’s a meeting to discuss establishing bike trails in the fringes of the Kaimai Ranges at the “top of Whaka”. It won’t all be good: the seventeen minute journey to downtown Tauranga at market hours is increased to a frustrating weekday crawl often from the road to the Te Puna Quarry. It’s getting harder and harder to turn from Barrett Road onto State Highway 2. But they’re all things that could be remedied.

I love driving down the Whakamarama Road and my eyes meeting the changing colours and shapes of the harbour below. I love driving back up the Whakamarama Road past the Puketoki Reserve and finally turning up onto the little stretch of real-rural gravel road towards my home. Trying to avoid the clusters of potholes has become part of the experience of home-coming I undertake with increasing delight. I didn’t choose to live in Whakamarama but now I’m here, I’m so glad I’m here!

What’s on at the Whakamarama Hall:

From the Omokoroa Omlette of February 2016:

Friday 18th March 2016, the Whakamarama Harvest Festival. Entries to be in by 5pm.

Bring along and display your best and most interesting home-grown fruit and vegetables, produce, preserves, pickles, art, craft, backing beverages, flowers etc BYO dinner and drinks. Adults gold coin donation, kids free

Whakamarama Hall Library: www.whakalibrary.com Open every Thursday from 9am to 12noon and every 1st and 3rd Friday of the month from 6.30pm to 8pm

Preschool gymnastics at the Hall on Tuesday mornings. Contact Bridgit on 552 5559 or 027 292 2309 or email bridgit.a.w@xtra.co.nz

TWIF (Thank Whaka it’s Friday) – every third Friday of the month from 6pm to 9pm. Bring your dinner and a bottle or two and meet the community.

Want to book the Whakamarama Hall or hire the tables and chairs, call the booking officer Sylvia Birkitt on 578 7015

And if you want to be part of the Whakamarama District network and know when baddies and burglars are about, stock is on the road, the dog is lost, the cat is up a tree, who has got what free or for sale then you can join the email network run by the redoubtable Colin Hewens at col.hewens@orcon.net.nz

Think you might like to live in fabulous Whakamarama? Take a look at Ukes & Song at the Whakamarama Hall where I’ve written a word picture of the district.


Real estate agent Graham Belcher has life-long connections with rural Whakamarama. Graham works in tandem with colleague Richard Hubbard. They are based in Harcourts Advantage Realty Limited office in Bethlehem on State Highway 2 on the Bethlehem Town Centre fringe just before the intersection.

And here are two recipes from that country morning tea at the Whakamarama Hall:

Debbie Allan’s Chocolate Fudge Cake

In a large bowl mix:

11/2 cups of flour

3 table spoons of cocoa

1 cup of sugar

1 cup of water

1 teaspoon of vanilla

1 tablespoon of white vinegar

6 tablespoons of oil

¼ teaspoon of salt

Mix until smooth, then pour into lined tine and back at 180degrees Centigrade for 35 minutes.

This is just the easiest and yummiest “chocky cake” and I think is the same recipe I used to use when the tattooed warrior was a small cake eater. It’s almost like a chocolate sponge.

Dallas of Road Runners Scrumptious Chocolate Chip Biscuits

175 grams butter

50 grams icing sugar

few drops of vanilla essence

1 cup chocolate chips

175 grams flour

Cream butter and sugar, add essence, chocolate chips then dry ingredients.

Roll into balls and flatten a little

Place on a lined backing tray

Bake 20 minutes at 180degrees Centigrade

Another winner on the morning tea front.

Photo0413Rosemary Balu. Rosemary Balu is the founding and current editor of ARTbop. Rosemary has arts and law degrees from the University of Auckland. She has been a working lawyer and has participated in a wide variety of community activities where information gathering, submission writing, community advocacy and education have been involved. Interested in all forms of the arts since childhood Rosemary is focused on further developing and expanding multi-media ARTbop as the magazine for all the creative arts in the Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.


About Author

Leave A Reply