Native Affairs – Nannies busking to save an icon

By Wepiha Te Kanawa

“The iconic Tokomaru Bay wharf could collapse into the ocean it if isn’t fixed soon.”  That’s the prediction of Bruce Holm, Chairman of the Tokomaru Bay Heritage Trust. “It’s a race against time to save it as a big storm bringing a large southerly swell could knock the concrete section over.”

But two local elderly women have joined forces to try to save the wharf.

81-year-old Hine Wilcox and 79-year-old Merle Pewhairangi are tired of seeing their wharf falling apart literally in front of their eyes.  So every week Merle and Hine busk at the local Four Square to raise funds to help restore the wharf.

“Hine and I spend a lot of time fundraising for our wharf,” says Merle, “Actually we will sing at the drop of a hat because we go to a lot of social functions.  We mightn't be on the program but if they know we’re there they'll call us up and we get up and we entertain”.

The wharf was built in 1909 when Tokomaru was a thriving community of 5000.  The wharf was used by suppliers exporting timber, wool, meat and livestock to Gisborne and other parts of Aotearoa.

The Tokomaru Bay Heritage Trust was established to raise the funds needed to complete the wharf repair project.

A feasibility report by the Trust shows the total repair cost of the wharf is $4 million dollars.

The trust has raised $670,000 donated by the New Zealand Lottery Board, Gisborne District Council, the JN Williams Memorial Trust, the HB Williams Turanga Trust and the J Hickey Charitable Trust.  A further $630,000 is needed to commence stage 1 repairs of the concrete pillars.

Mr Holm says, “The trust will be making another application to the Eastland Community Trust (ECT) for $650,000 to enable the concrete section to be repaired.”

The trust has applied to the ECT three times to help cover the costs but their application has been declined every time.

A spokesperson from ECT said in a statement “The Chairman wishes to advise that we are not able to make a comment regarding private applications.”

Meanwhile, the musical fundraising effort continues.

Hine says, “As kids, we used to come and play here.  We were never told to get away or don’t be a hōhā, we would stay down here until midnight sometimes, just watching the boats being worked.”

Hine and Merle can usually be found performing at the Tokomaru Bay Foursquare between 9.00am and midday.

Here is a link to the Save Tokomaru Bay's heritage Givealittle page.