Home News Old photo brings back poignant memories

Old photo brings back poignant memories


An old black and white photo published in The Onehunga Community News last month, brought back poignant childhood memories for Onehunga man, John Tapene. John recognised a small, run-down building in the background, which housed the Onehunga Maori Centre, and which has a “special place in my family’s hearts”.

Not only was it the place where he gathered with others, and played with his friends as a boy, but it was also the place where his father, Petera Tapene, lay for his tangihanga after his was killed in the 1963 Bynderwyn Bus Crash. 

John remembers spending many hours at the centre as a boy. He says, “being at the centre allowed me and my whanaunga to play on, under and around the wharf, to hide in the marshlands of Gloucester Park swamp, to swim from the stone boat ramp, and to construct punts from corrugated iron that just happened to fall off some of the fences in the immediate vicinity.

“Another favourite was trying to derail train wagons by carefully placing stones on the railway tracks. The more adventurous placed stones on the railway tracks under the Mangere bridge.”

In those days, SH20 had not yet been built, and no reclamation had taken place on the coast. John and his friends were able to pick watercress from the fresh water spring at the bottom of Spring Street, and punt from the marshes there, around to the wharf.

The bus crash, which killed 15 people, was a national tragedy, and is the worst road crash in New Zealand history. When the Prime Minister, Sir Keith Holyoake came to pay  his respects at the Onehunga Maori Centre, one of the kaumatua from the local iwi based at Ihumatao ,“expressed concern” to Sir Keith that the rundown building was the only place the people had to gather and mourn.

“Sir Keith Holyoake pledged his government’s support to the people and it came to pass that Te Puea Marae….was opened as a place for Maori living in and around this area could gather, celebrate, learn, mourn and keep their traditions alive.”








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