As Grassroots As It Gets

As Grassroots As It Gets

It was a sunny day when I drove up the Cook Hospital Hill, and quite surreal to see the difference in the landscape from when I had worked as a shorthand typist at the Cook Hospital in the 1980s.

Here in Tairāwhiti, we have some of the most beautiful botanical gardens and arboretums in the country. I was stoked to be checking out one of the less known Tūranga gardens with Ray Gowland to learn more about this grassroots community project.

The gardens are in a 1.85 hectare Council reserve close to where the old Cook Hospital had overlooked the city. You can access the tranquil little valley from either Diana Avenue at the top of Hospital Hill or Valley Road, opposite The Farmyard, in Mangapapa.

It was interesting to note while I was digging around historical documents that the main hospital in the late 1800s had been in Aberdeen Road.  The new hospital was built on the hill because new premises were needed for the increasing numbers of sick people with “Gisborne fever” and epidemics of typhoid, diphtheria, and influenza.  Very relatable as we experience our own Covid-19 pandemic!

Volunteers have been helping Ray with the mahi – developing, improving, and extending the gardens ever since. In addition to thousands of volunteer hours, donations from the Turanga Lions Club, Williams Family Trust and Gisborne District Council have contributed to the project. The Council staff and contractors continue to provide support with plants and advice. 

At the moment, four volunteers meet every Friday morning for three hours of weeding, planting,  maintenance, some good banter and a cuppa. Two of them, Martin Cox and Graeme Miller, share similar stories as retirees wanting to give back to the land and the community. The camaraderie and putting the world right are top of their minds most days. 

Martin has been helping for eight years and Graeme, two. Martin asks anyone sitting at home, retired or at a loose end, not to be shy to lend a hand. He likes to meet and talk to people from different walks of life and have a bit of a laugh. While Graeme is a keen gardener, he also got involved to meet people and keep up his fitness, “It’s a big job with only the four of us.” 

Ray, Martin, Graeme and the other stalwart of support for the gardens, Gail Wadham, are doing awesome work.  They are achieving lots for Papatūānuku and for the nature she provides. Like many other voluntary projects, there is more work than they can handle. 

We highly recommend you take your whānau to check this lovely little corner of Tūranganui-a-Kiwa out. They are peaceful and easy walking with heaps of different tracks for the kids to explore.  Afternoons in the gardens are especially lovely with the golden sun filtering through the tall gums. 

If you’re interested in lending these guys a hand, or for any further information, you can contact Ray Gowland on rayandleonie@gmail.com or follow Turanga Gardens on Facebook. 

Story by Sandra Groves 

A Midwife for the Soul

We are born. We live. We die.

At the age of 21 Anne Meredith was studying toward a degree in World Religions at Victoria University in Wellington and working at a spiritual healing centre in town, which complemented her field of study rather nicely.   

One day a man came in and asked whether they had the book ‘The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying.’  When Anne couldn’t find it on the shelves, the man said he would bring his own copy in for Anne to borrow, adding that it was requisite reading for someone in her field of study.

Once the book had been left in her care, Anne took it home and lapped it all up, finding herself in possession of a newfound understanding of the central tenet of Buddhist philosophy; the impermanence of all things.

Anne recounts a Buddhist parable, which describes this:

“A woman whose baby has died goes to Buddha and says ‘I will do anything if you will just bring my baby back to life’. Buddha replies ‘okay, bring me some mustard seeds from another home, but they must come from a home that has not experienced death’. The woman visits home after home but of course does not find a household untouched by death. Through this process woman reaches enlightenment, and her own understanding of the impermanence of everything”. 

Not long after reading this book, Anne’s grandmother died.  Anne drew upon those themes of impermanence in the speech she gave for her grandmother at her funeral.  Following the ceremony the funeral director approached to congratulate Anne on her speech, noting that she would make a great funeral director.

A seed was planted for Anne that day, and Anne has lived ever since in the knowledge that she would one day work in the field of death and dying.

So while Anne went on to teach for the next twenty or so years and absolutely “loved it”, her interest in death and in dying, has endured.  Throughout that time she has been involved with the organisations, ‘National Association for Loss and Grief’ and ‘Growing through Grief’ and has continued to be drawn to learning and talking about what she describes as “the biggest thing we will experience in life.”

It was while living and working with her family in Samoa from 2015 to 2019 that Anne realised that if there was ever a time to make the change it would be on their return to New Zealand. Going on that initial seed planted by the funeral director so many years ago Anne approached the local funeral directors, but there weren’t any opportunities going, which led to her discovery of this whole other, as yet untapped (here in Tūranganui-a-Kiwa at least), area of death care.

Death Doula [deth doo-luh]

Noun. The word comes from the Greek ‘doulē’ meaning ‘female servant/slave’. Also known as a soul midwife or end of life doula, the support this person offers often focuses on the emotional, psychological and spiritual side of dying, as well as the more practical things.

Since returning to Aotearoa from Samoa in 2019 Anne has been working as a support worker, hospice volunteer, funeral celebrant  and building the foundations for her business ‘Three Seeds’ in which she offers her services as an end of life doula and deathcare advocate.  She is involved with a couple of national projects relating to deathcare and provides free community workshops on a variety of topics. She also led a fundraising campaign to provide a Cuddle Cot for our community, which is a cooling system for a baby that has died, allowing the family to spend some precious time with their child before saying goodbye.

Anne sees a big part of her role as empowering people to reclaim death care for themselves.  She’s happy to be able to help people understand the range of options that actually exist in death care, and provides a supportive space in which people can ask all the questions they like, and can help with advance care planning. The best time for people to talk about death, Anne says, is when we are well.

“Practically there’s a lot to know about dying and things can get complicated. People often don’t know their options”. Anne is pro-choice. “Some people want the funeral directors to do everything”, and Anne says, we are lucky to have Funeral Directors who can provide that.

Others however, would rather do things themselves, or varying degrees of the process. Anne says that funeral poverty is a significant social issue of our times and she is glad that she can provide people with information about alternative ways of approaching deathcare, which can alleviate those huge costs commonly associated with it.

Ownership and environmental aspects are other factors in more and more people wanting to explore alternative pathways, “People are wanting more natural death care these days, and it’s easy to do that actually”.

Anne sells techni-ice, and has a mini freezer, which families can hire, which offers an alternative to embalming. She gives workshops on its use and is always happy to discuss this in the chats that she offers from her new Three Seeds premises.

After those initial chats or one of the various workshops that she offers to our community, Anne can walk alongside people and their whānau for parts of, or for the whole journey.

Annie loves her work because she sees it as such an important time of life and calls letting your people know what your death wishes are “a real gift of love”.  Things can get really tricky when people don’t know what you want and Anne suggests that we all have a folder called ‘When I Die’ left somewhere that someone close to us knows about.  

Through her role as a death doula and a deathcare advocate, Anne Meredith offers seeds of kindness, compassion and support before death, during and after death. And just as times of wellness are the best time for considering our own death, we think that this is a great time to have someone like Anne offering this service in our community. 

Anne regularly holds free community workshops and has a sliding scale of rates for her services. You can set up a time to have a chat with Anne on 021 299 5774 or get in touch through her Facebook page @threeseeds.info   

This story was brought to you by the good people at Tāiki e! who are leading local celebrations of Global Entrepreneurship Week next week.  They aim to connect the diverse parts of our local entrepreneurial ecosystem, and inspire our community to embrace entrepreneurship as a tool for community transformation and long term impact, which Anne Meredith is certainly doing with Three Seeds.

Story by Sarah Cleave

Kaithuhi Rāwhiti Two – A local collection of writing

Three of Kaituhi Rāwhiti Two’s Editors, Gillian Moon, Aaron Compton & Regina de Wolf-Ngarimu

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn

The first seedling idea for an East Coast writers’ garden was planted in the rich and fertile soil of a Tairawhiti Writers Hub meeting, when Gillian Moon (wait up, that’s me!) brought to the table an idea of putting together a collection of writing from the shores of Tairāwhiti.  Nurtured with encouragement and enthusiasm by fellow members and by securing and applying a generous amount of compost via a grant gratefully received from the Margaret King Spencer Writers Encouragement Trust Fund, Kaituhi Rāwhiti;  A celebration of East Coast Writers began its journey.

During the early months of 2020,  the four Editors; Aaron Compton, Christopher McMaster, Gillian Moon (me again) and Claire Price put out the call for submissions of work to be sent in, with the opportunity to appear in a published anthology of East Coast writing.  Under the unexpected yet auspicious circumstances of lock-down, writers around the region had their pens scrolling across pages and fingers tapping at their keyboards, with the hope of getting published in this celebratory first volume of writing.

The motivation behind Kaituhi Rāwhiti was to bring together and showcase the diversity of people who call Tairāwhiti their home and to provide a platform for writers to share their stories and their craft in a safe, creative and nurturing environment.  And with thirty four contributors (nine of those Rangatahi from our region), the foreword by Witi Ihimaera, a sell out book launch, and ongoing book sales – it can be proudly deemed that Kaituhi Rāwhiti was and is a great success!  With that in mind and a “let’s do volume two” ringing loudly in the ears of the editors, the call has gone out for submissions to Kaituhi Rāwhiti Two!

With a slight change of the original line up of Editors,  Regina de Wolf-Ngarimu has stepped in to fill the shoes of Claire Price, who is busy with other business and creative projects this year.  Regina is a contributor in the original Kaituhi Rāwhiti and brings a wealth of skills in the form of publishing, writing and marketing.  

What are the Editors looking for?  Submissions!  Any genre will be considered!  We want diversity, we want stories that celebrate different cultures, we want poems, photos with words, drawings that tell a story, essays, memoirs, speculative fiction.  Dig out those old, forgotten jotted down stories, notes and words – blow off the dust, re read, re visit, re write and let your imagination go. Gizzy’s sizzling summertime is just the time to chillax at the beach, river or park under a shady, leafy tree and work towards the March 01 2022 deadline for submissions.  What will your words bring to the garden of Kaituhi Rāwhiti Two?

Check out our Tairawhiti Writers Hub Facebook page and request to join – we love welcoming new members.  Or if you want to check out a copy of the original Kaituhi Rāwhiti, the H.B. Williams Memorial Library has a copy to loan or they can be purchased from the Tairāwhiti Museum and from all our supportive bookshops.  Alternatively drop us an email at tairawhitiwrite@gmail.com for any questions or comments.

Story by Gillian Moon

Kaituhi Rāwhiti

“To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” – Audrey Hepburn

The first seedling idea for an East Coast writers’ garden was planted in the rich and fertile soil of a Tairawhiti Writers Hub meeting, when Gillian Moon (wait up, that’s me!) brought to the table an idea of putting together a collection of writing from the shores of Tairāwhiti.  Nurtured with encouragement and enthusiasm by fellow members and by securing and applying a generous amount of compost via a grant gratefully received from the Margaret King Spencer Writers Encouragement Trust Fund, Kaituhi Rāwhiti;  A celebration of East Coast Writers began its journey.

During the early months of 2020,  the four Editors; Aaron Compton, Christopher McMaster, Gillian Moon (me again) and Claire Price put out the call for submissions of work to be sent in, with the opportunity to appear in a published anthology of East Coast writing.  Under the unexpected yet auspicious circumstances of lock-down, writers around the region had their pens scrolling across pages and fingers tapping at their keyboards, with the hope of getting published in this celebratory first volume of writing.

The motivation behind Kaituhi Rāwhiti was to bring together and showcase the diversity of people who call Tairāwhiti their home and to provide a platform for writers to share their stories and their craft in a safe, creative and nurturing environment.  And with thirty four contributors (nine of those Rangatahi from our region), the foreword by Witi Ihimaera, a sell out book launch, and ongoing book sales – it can be proudly deemed that Kaituhi Rāwhiti was and is a great success!  With that in mind and a “let’s do volume two” ringing loudly in the ears of the editors, the call has gone out for submissions to Kaituhi Rāwhiti Two!

With a slight change of the original line up of Editors,  Regina de Wolf-Ngarimu has stepped in to fill the shoes of Claire Price, who is busy with other business and creative projects this year.  Regina is a contributor in the original Kaituhi Rāwhiti and brings a wealth of skills in the form of publishing, writing and marketing.  

What are the Editors looking for?  Submissions!  Any genre will be considered!  We want diversity, we want stories that celebrate different cultures, we want poems, photos with words, drawings that tell a story, essays, memoirs, speculative fiction.  Dig out those old, forgotten jotted down stories, notes and words – blow off the dust, re read, re visit, re write and let your imagination go. Gizzy’s sizzling summertime is just the time to chillax at the beach, river or park under a shady, leafy tree and work towards the March 01 2022 deadline for submissions.  What will your words bring to the garden of Kaituhi Rāwhiti Two?

Check out our Tairawhiti Writers Hub Facebook page and request to join – we love welcoming new members.  Or if you want to check out a copy of the original Kaituhi Rāwhiti, the H.B. Williams Memorial Library has a copy to loan or they can be purchased from the Tairāwhiti Museum and from all our supportive bookshops.  Alternatively drop us an email at tairawhitiwrite@gmail.com for any questions or comments.

Story by Gillian Moon

Dave Timbs: Relationship as Reimbursement

David Timbs runs his business decidedly outside-the-box. But it does involve a box: that’s where people leave their koha after receiving treatment from him, and it’s the only form of payment he accepts. David first opened his Natural Therapy Clinic doors some 40 years ago, and for the last decade or so, he’s successfully managed to operate on koha alone. The idea is simple, and perhaps a bit idealistic: David asks people to pay what they think is fair, anonymously. And once he started down that path, he’s never given a thought to doing business any other way.  

A lifelong student and traveler, David is educated and trained in a wide variety of modalities, and they all influence what he offers at his small clinic at Wainui Beach. The majority of his work is spinal manipulation, but he also provides polarity therapy bodywork and Iridology, a study of the eye’s iris to reveal information about a person’s overall health. He holds diplomas in Naturopathy and Ayurveda, and his treatment often blends the different therapies and wisdoms. David himself admits it’s difficult to describe what he does. For him, chiropractic practice always felt a bit too specialized, “I’ve always been more interested in the whole person. I wanted to draw on other things.” His business card reads, ‘Practitioner. Teacher. Surfer’. 

“If you relieve someone of pain and then they put money in your hand, that’s too close. It makes it seem as if my motivation was money”

The koha payment structure arose when he noticed a conflict in client feedback. Until that point, he hadn’t changed his fee for 20 years. Some people were urging him to put his fees up because he was charging too little, while others were clearly struggling to pay and often delaying treatment of their pain as a result. David remembered hearing of a “by donation” system in the States, and he decided to try it out for a week. After the initial week, he decided to continue it through Christmas, which then was just weeks away. “And then I thought, I really like the feel of this.” 

The clinic has run on koha ever since. In the traditional fee setting, David felt uncomfortable with how close a connection there was between the treatment and the money. “If you relieve someone of pain and then they put money in your hand, that’s too close. It makes it seem as if my motivation was money”. In David’s mind, the motivation is to relieve suffering. So much so that he aims to have no repeat appointments, hoping that once someone has seen him, their pain is gone. 

He has no idea what each individual person pays, and he doesn’t take personally what amount he receives. “When I go to my box at the end of the day, I know that I’ve been rewarded greater than what I would’ve set as a fee. Other times when you realise someone has put a lower value, maybe it’s what they can afford. If I wasn’t any good at my job, people wouldn’t come or wouldn’t pay. So it’s an honest view of where you fit into the bigger system. But I would rather not think about the money, and just think about doing the best I can for each person”. 

David’s perspective draws from a lifetime of travel and exploration. He grew up in Wellington, in Titahi Bay, and studied to be a primary school teacher. A keen surfer, he initially came to Gisborne to surf and teach. But at the time, teaching didn’t feel like the right fit. He felt that a person should be worldly and wise before being a teacher, so he set off to adventure abroad, exploring, sailing, and surfing.

On one formative trip David went to America to visit his brother, who was studying to be a chiropractor in Iowa.  David arrived in San Francisco with $70, a one-month visa, and no ticket out.  He hitchhiked across the country to get to his brother, and found himself joining the chiropractic program.  

After nearly a year of study in Iowa, immigration complications forced him to leave, and David resumed his travels in Canada and England. He later discovered Polarity Therapy, and trained with pioneering teacher Pierre Pannetier in California and Mexico before he returned home. Ready to share his knowledge, David opened his first clinic in Gisborne in 1980.  

In the ensuing decades, he developed a pattern of alternating work at home with travel and study, adding Iridology, Naturopathy, and Ayurveda to his repertoire. He regularly returned to India and America, both to continue his learning and share his wisdom through teaching. When David’s offspring Darnelle and Robson were in university, he decided to return to study too, earning his Bachelor of Education, “I’m always a student, the more you learn the more you realize you don’t know.” 

Much of David’s focus has been Ayurveda, the Indian ancient medicine system, or “science of life.” After studying with prominent international Ayurvedic scholar Dr. Robert Svoboda, the two became close, and David even hosted him here in Gisborne. During one trip to India for an Ayurvedic Conference, the organiser announced, much to David’s surprise, that David would give the closing address. He remembers, “I thought, either I grow a new arm and do this or crawl into my shell. So I did it and it was fine. But I also thought if my mates could see me now, they would be rolling on the ground.” 

David is not a man afraid to try something different, and that attitude may well make his patients more receptive to his various methodologies. You may not expect a rural shearer to seek treatment, but it’s not out of the ordinary for David. His clientele ranges from Wainui locals to people coming from up the coast, a diverse group in age, background, and socioeconomic status, and that means a lot to him. When someone walks through his door, he makes sure that they feel comfortable and safe, no matter what their story is.  

Now aged 70, David typically only works in the afternoon. In the morning, he goes for a surf or meets friends for coffee at Zephyr cafe down the street, Bosco the dog at his side. Twice a week he teaches Yin Yoga. He lives simply, and without hustle. “Money comes and goes. I don’t ever feel there’s a shortage of it, it’s just how you tap into your share of it.”

David concedes the koha model would be difficult to just pick up and do, and that what he built was based on decades of relationships and reputation. He emphasises, “It’s all based on the relationship with the person. The relationship is the reimbursement.” 

In a world where it often feels like everything has a price, David’s approach is remarkable and refreshing. “I’m not trying to sell myself, I’m just trying to listen to the person and be of some use to them.” He’s also careful to say he’s not a healer, “All I’m doing is assisting them to heal themselves. The whole thing is to empower the person, to make them responsible for their own state of wellbeing.”

There’s no doubt David inspires empowerment, showing that a shift in the way business is done is possible, and sustainable. His is a heartening example of what it could be like to operate in an ‘Aroha Economy’ where currency depends a lot less on commodification, and a lot more on community.

Story by Victoria Williams

* This story was brought to you with the support of Tāiki e! Next week is Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The festival aims to connect diverse parts of the entrepreneurial ecosystem, give visibility to key areas of focus, and inspire our Tairāwhiti community to embrace entrepreneurship as a tool for community transformation and long term impact.

It also provides a platform for expressing our own unique Tairāwhiti style and flavour of entrepreneurship which is deep rooted in community and aroha. Stay tuned to find out what Tāiki e! have planned for us!

NOise VACANCY 2021

The idea for Noise Vacancy came into being in 2020 over the course of an evening in which a group of friends, Nikki O’Connor, Lina Marsh, Katy Wallace and myself had come together to discuss an event in which for local artists to show their stuff, potentially as a part of the upcoming Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival.

Over the course of the evening the topic of vacant buildings in our inner city came to the fore and the concept of NOise VACANCY was born.

Last year’s NOise VACANCY was a grand experiment. We initially envisaged a walking tour winding through the streets, an otherworldly coming alive of disused spaces strung across the city. However the months passed and landlords were not exactly jumping at the opportunity to have a group of artists bring their unused buildings to life for a night.

The answers we received were always the same, “it’s about to be leased” or “awaiting earthquake strengthening” or in most cases no reply at all. Many of the buildings we enquired about in those first few months still stand in the same state today. Empty.

There were two wonderful people who had a different answer for us however and so it was that Patrick McHugh and Jill Tomlinson handed us over the keys and told us to ‘go to town’ in their two level Lowe Street building. 

A couple of months later they were amongst the most excited audience members as a night of magic and mystery unfolded for both those who participated and attended. Hundreds of people explored, discovered, pondered and puzzled alongside each other, with much excited chatter about how they had never experienced anything like it – at least not in Gisborne.

This year’s event was no different.  Another landlord stood apart from the rest with Tony Robinson opening the doors to the Public Trust building on Childers Road for a bunch of artists to explore and occupy for a few days during Te Tairāwhiti Arts Festival. Despite the Covid restrictions meaning that the audience had to book into specific time slots the air of discovery and excitement remained.

The brief to the artists is to respond to the space and its history using sound.  By its very nature art will also reflect the socio-political contexts of its time and some of our current issues were certainly in evidence in this year’s works.  

Curator Nikki O’Connor is always interested to see how the artists and sound makers connect to the kaupapa, and how they incorporate sound, “As they spend more time with the space and it’s stories it’s fascinating to watch the ideas take shape. The range of creative disciplines and approaches adds to the surreal dreamland feeling of the night”. 

As the original tenants of the building, the Public Trust Organisation gave some artists the nudge to explore notions of trust, the housing crisis was given a few strong nods and Wendy Kirkwood’s vintage clothing store ‘Unfinished Business’ and the Family Planning Association also inspired installation and performance. Other pieces responded directly to the space in experiential forms such as dance, chanting and spoken word.

As the audience meandered around the two storeys of the building in the changing light, projections spoke into various corners including the street outside and the yard out back. A few hardy performers kept going for the entirety of the experience – no less than 4 and a half hours – while others popped up during each session. 

One of the things about the altered reality of an experience like this – both immersive and sometimes interactive – means that the lines between art and real life can become blurred. And so an empty paper cup set upon a window sill might be picked up and turned over for clues as to its purpose, and a couple passionately kissing on a corner may be unflinchingly observed as a courageous piece of performance art (in a small town such as this), until it becomes clear that actually, the performance is just about to begin…

It was great to have a few more young people involved this year with a stairwell installation speaking directly to the regenerative power of rangatahi.  12 year old artist, Wolfe Jackson says he felt really lucky to be a part of NOise VACANCY, “It was really cool and inspiring being around so many other different artists.  It was my first exhibition and I was a bit nervous that my art would be just seen as kid’s drawings, but the feedback from people was surprisingly good so that was a relief.  It was a great night, a bit tiring but so worth it in the end”.

One of this year’s curator’s Katy Wallace loves the way in which “NOise VACANCY gives local creatives the chance to push their practices in different ways and to work with or alongside each other. It is a refreshing challenge to any creative practice considering sound, installation, and performance in one package”.

One of the highlights for curator Lina Marsh was working with a great team of wahine who were open to giving anything a go. This included launching NOise VACANCY 2021 online during lockdown. “Neither of us really knew what we were doing and it made it hard to communicate online as opposed to in person, but we embraced the opportunity and created a kookie zoom recording announcing our aims for this year’s performance. NOise VACANCY definitely pushes you out of your comfort zones”. 

NOise VACANCY provides a fantastic opportunity to show what local creatives are capable of, for our community to experience something out of the ordinary, and it also achieves the original intent of bringing energy to spaces which had been previously forgotten. 

In a happy epilogue to NOise VACANCY episode one, 64 Lowe Street is currently occupied by a bunch of creatives and the record store Spellbound Wax, all of whom are overjoyed to have an affordable and inspiring space, which they otherwise might not have, if it were not for the NOise VACANCY experience. 


If you were at NOise VACANCY we’d love to hear what you thought! Let us know in the comments below or drop a line to noisevacancy@gmail.com or @noisevancy on Instagram.

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