Home' Hastings Mail : June 1st 2011 Contents 14 HASTINGS MAIL, JUNE 1, 2011
Una a loyal caretaker of the planet
On the job: Una Hunter, of Stoke,
who spends two hours every
morning picking up rubbish and
looking after public gardens she has
made in Songer St.
Next time you wake at 4.30am
and can t get back to sleep, spare
a thought for 84-year-old Una
That s the time she gets up,
makes her bed and has a shower
before knocking back a cup of tea
and getting to work on the street
outside her house.
Under streetlights and moon-
light, and wearing a high-
visibility vest and gloves, Una
spends two hours each morning,
seven days a week, picking up
rubbish, weeding public gardens,
sweeping leaves and even scrub-
bing public seats to get Songer St,
in Stoke, near Nelson, ready for
The most common items of litter
she picks up include beer bottles,
cans, McDonald s packaging, ciga-
rette packets and used tissues.
Occasionally she has to deal
with used condoms, sanitary pads,
vomit and dog poo.
Once she even picked up a towel
with human poo in it.
Why does she do it?
I like to get it all cleaned up
before the children get out on the
streets and I want to stop people
getting flat tyres, she said.
Originally from Taranaki and a
Methodist, Una has always
enjoyed working outside and com-
muning with nature.
I think we are just servants of
this planet. We re caretakers of
Una, who has survived two
husbands, six siblings and one of
her three children, has been serv-
ing her community in this way for
the past 15 years.
To get the job done, she takes a
bucket, brush, shovel, rake and
garden choppers with her. She
also takes a bottle of Dettol for
cleaning the local public seats.
They get dirty with bird poop.
You can t expect people to sit in
bird muck, she said.
The most memorable piece of
rubbish she has picked up so far
was a discarded cannabis bong,
although at the time she did not
know what it was.
It was a plastic bottle and it
had this thing coming out of it
that looked like a man s penis,
Una took the mystery object
home and put it in her garden as
a decoration, which is where it
stayed until a neighbour told her
what it was.
If this was not remarkable
enough, the gardens Una takes
care of around Warnes Indoor
Bowls Stadium and the Stoke Toy
Library are ones she has planted
and tended over the years.
The Nelson City Council looks
after the area too, but not often
enough for Una s liking; last week
she decided a grass verge was
looking messy, so she got a handy-
man to give it a mow.
I paid him $25, she said.
Una s public service also
reflects her political philosophy.
A member of the National
Party, Una thinks more people
should do the sort of work she
does, including the elderly.
I believe people should work
for the pension. I reckon every-
body else should do it too, instead
of bludging, she said.
And while many of us take it
easy on Sunday, that s the day
Una puts extra effort into making
herself useful to the community.
Each Sunday at 7.15am she
takes a taxi to town where she
cruises around the Sunday mar-
ket looking for bargains.
Each week she spends about
$30 on useful secondhand goods
that she then donates to charities
for them to sell to raise funds.
Una appreciates how lucky she
is to be in such good health, but
has little time for those who shake
their head at her efforts to keep
her street clean and help those in
need. In fact, she doesn t really
What are they living here for if
they don t take an interest in the
place? she said.
The way she sees it, the more
all of us can do for each other the
We are all one big family when
it s all said and done, she said.
Fathers and sons have last
word in Porangahau trilogy
By VIVIENNE HALDANE
The book: The completion of a Porangahau
Storyteller: Porangahau author Hilary
The threads of Marina Sciascia and Hilary
Pedersen s lives began to intertwine long
before they were born.
When their mothers were schoolchildren
they rode to Porangahau School via pony
I always thought that was a nice con-
nection between us, Mrs Pedersen says.
Our fathers probably played rugby and
did stuff like that together too.
The two women, whose friendship
blossomed later in their lives (both are
widows), are long-time residents of
Porangahau, and have just completed their
third book together.
Matatoa Fathers and Sons, is the final in
a trilogy of stories gathered and written by
people from the Porangahau District. The
first was Hakui Mothers of Porangahau and
the second, Tuahine Sisters of Porangahau.
The books contain a treasure trove of
family histories, and in this sense are a
slice of the history of the area.
In all these books people have spoken
with their own voices with very little
tidying up from us, so in that way, it s
totally authentic, Mrs Pedersen says.
Once we d done Sisters, we knew we d
eventually want to do the men. We just had
to psych ourselves up to it.
We started to approach families two
years ago and it was the same process;
often the men were from families who were
in the other books, but their stories stand in
their own right.
There s a diversity of stories and some
really solid history in there -- good Maori
history as well as the early Pakeha
Mrs Pedersen says she asked the families
to go back as far as they could to establish
a sense of place -- where they came from
before they came to New Zealand .
There s a wonderful story by Bill Mouat
about his family who came into the district
after World War II, and over the years
developed a big enterprise, she says.
His father, Don, played a significant role
in the formation of the community that
included starting the Porangahau Country
Club and saving the old Mangaorapa
school, later made into a resource room.
I d like to think that what we have here
could be a blueprint for others. We are
really excited about the book because
there s more depth in this one.
I believe we have to acknowledge the
early settlers who came with their differing
expectations of land-use and ownership.
These were the huge challenges that col-
onial settlement presented and had to be
accommodated. I thought, if this book can
address some of those things, that s great.
However, other people may not see it
that way -- I m open to being challenged on
that. We are different people and see the
world through different eyes, its about
mutual respect. I m strong on that.
I think in New Zealand we should
respect this diversity and not try to put
ourselves in the same basket. We don t
have to all be the same and its naive to
think we can be. Standing alongside one
another is important.
Marina Sciascia is a hard woman to get
hold of. When we finally talk on a Sunday
afternoon, she sounds excited about her
involvement in a centennial for the local
wharenui, to be held in November.
She is feeling both elated and apprehen-
sive about the launch of Matatoa Fathers
and Sons in August.
Elated at having designed the layouts
and seen the proofs, and apprehensive
because Hilly and I went into these books
with no money, she laughs, then as if to
reassure herself says, it s not an alone
thing -- there s many other people who feel
equally passionate about this, because
they ve captured their own history.
Hilary and I both bring unique
perspectives to this book, she says, refer-
ring to the their distinctive ways of work-
ing. We move in different circles, but we
are both women living on our own in a
village and we often depend on one another.
What spurred me into doing Te Hakui
was that both my grandmothers (and so
many other wonderful people I knew), had
died, yet nothing had been recorded of their
lives. This was a way to ensure they d never
I was lucky that I grew up in a family of
story tellers who would enjoy yarning
around the kitchen table. When visitors
came, meals could take take hours.
I was surrounded by people who had a
love of talking. Perhaps it was the Italian in
us. (Marina s great-grandfather Nicola
Sciascia came from Southern Italy).
I feel we ve only just scratched the sur-
face with these books -- anyone could come
along now and enlarge on any part of what
we ve started.
I suggest that perhaps it s because both
women are well known in their community
that s made it easier for people to open up
and tell their stories.
Mrs Sciascia doesn t agree. It s harder
for Maori families -- in some ways, it s our
culture; you don t talk about yourself.
My generation is still linked to that time
when whakapapa was tapu. Only tohunga
or leaders who had that inner quality, had
the right to repeat these things.
Its about mana; you can diminish
people s mana by talking about them and if
you put this stuff into a book, what are you
doing to them?
Not everyone is comfortable with it.
My sense of achievement is that there
will be three books about Porangahau to
put on the shelves. I feel proud but always
remember, that without everyone s con-
tributions they wouldn t exist.
How did they approach the men to write
their stories. Actually they came and said:
what about us? , she says. Then they
wanted a committee to oversee us. I wasn t
The men s stories have a different depth
-- the women s are more like a social his-
tory: how they cooked, the lives of their
families. But the men s are rich with his-
tory of a different sort.
When I m reading the stories they are so
alive and vibrant. When I saw the Tipene
story I burst into tears -- here were all these
beautiful people that I love.
Wellington photographer, Sal Criscillo,
has again collaborated on Matatoa. Sal s
input is central to the overall success of our
books, they say.
In the foreword Mrs Sciascia says,
Stories live on, many of these families no
longer live in this community but their
stories are still here. These are the building
blocks of a small New Zealand place. The
stories may be lost, or altered with the tell-
They may be passed down through time
but in the end we need to have them
recorded. Writing them down is impor-
The launch of Matatoa Fathers and Son
is on Saturday, August 20.
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