The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

Up the back of Newtown — past the hospital, past New Zealand’s first branch library, past the community display-window where the Conscientious Objectors’ memorials absent from Pukeahu Park quietly underscore ANZAC celebrations — runs a narrow path marking the spine of Tangi-te-Keo (later Mt Victoria).

Māori knew the spine of Tangi-te-Keo as Te Ranga-a-Hiwi, the Ridge of Hiwi — dedicating the rocky scenic path to the daughter of Tara. Hiwi’s father’s people, Ngāi Tara, probably laid the first settlements in the area, such as the pā now sleeping beneath the Basin Reserve.

Hiwi’s ridge would briefly take on the name of Victoria Road, later again rechristened after the city’s Fire Brigade became flummoxed by callouts from the city’s vast plethora of separate Queenly streets. Te Ranga-a-Hiwi now became called Alexandra Road, in honour of Alexandra of Denmark — daughter of that country’s King and wife of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. The leafy path would be a wellknown beat amongst Wellington’s queer community: Frank Sargeson writes of forest trysts interrupted by the local constabulary, lovers vanishing like satyrs into the undergrowth.

Alexandra’s spine runs along her mother-in-law’s mountain, a borderland looking down over the city and out upon the fossilized body of Whātaitai the taniwha, upon which now lies Wellington Airport. The panoramic view would earn Tangi-te-Keo the later appellation of Matairangi, sea-and-sky.

While Whātaitai’s companion Ngake was escaping into the sea, opening up the ancient lake into the harbour that would later welcome the European settlers of Pōneke, the less-fortunate taniwha’s soul became a bird, Te Keo, ascending into the sky. Te Keo settled high on Te Ranga-a-Hiwi, commencing tangi — lamentations — for his ruined body. Tangi-te-Keo — the site of Te Keo’s tangi — is a liminal zone, a bridge between heaven and earth.

The last wings of Wellington’s Fever Hospital looked up Matairangi toward Tangi-te-Keo, dying patients’ final breaths mixing into the gorse-flower air drifting between sea and sky. Later generations would dare one another to walk Hiwi’s spine by night, peopling the abandoned hospital with a host of genius loci: imported Grey Ladies and patients-in-mourning, local spirits syncretised into Old-World codes fulfilling a common mythic urge.

Deep below Tangi-te-Keo lies a thick stone crushed between either side of the fault whose ruptures drove Hiwi’s spine high. Narrow and serpentine, this oldest dragon sits far beneath the site of Keo’s timeless tangi, anchoring the ridge that divides Wellington’s southern reaches.

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The 2014 amalgamation of our Film, Television and Sound Archives into Ngā Taonga Sound & Vision saw its nomenclature justified this week with the unveiling of an aural taonga for the ages. On the 35th anniversary of Wellington Access Radio’s arrival on air, broadcast material dating back throughout the station’s lively history has been added to the Ngā Taonga archives.

IMG_4592aDiscovered when Radio Collection Developer Gareth Watkins popped by his old work at Access, the station’s archival material offers an ear in on a wide breadth of Wellington voices from as far back as April 1981. Since that time the non-commercial station’s remit has been providing access to oft-unheard voices within the Capital community.

“Taonga and collection items have their own energy,” says Watkins, responsible for logging, indexing and facilitating access to the Access archive: “They travel through the world and join the collection at the right time.” Recorded on many-times-reused tapes, many shows exist only as degrading electric waves somewhere out in space (such is the Wellingtonista’s rudimentary understanding of radio technology, at least for the purposes of this post). But whatever ended up on those tapes when they left the studio — much of it dating back to the 1980s — now joins the collection.

Much of the material is still making its way toward the public, but Watkins has already begun sharing curios. You can hear some excerpts from Access Radio’s very first broadcast here, and can browse further items in the Ngā Taonga catalog for requesting from the archive.

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Review: The moa show

by librarykris on April 27, 2016 in Comedy, Festival

Jamie McCaskill in plaid shirt for The moa showThe Junction Hotel is pub in rural Thames. It’s fairly typical– a bar, a dart board, a smoking area, the regulars. There’s Henry Hikoi from Ngati Pukeko, Brian Tritt who’s in every day, and Carmichael. When the three of them start drinking together and talking about the moa in the hills they wake up in a very strange place. Then everything goes a bit weird…

Jamie McCaskill is the solo performer in this ‘surreal adult adventure story.’  He creates clearly defined characters with their own mannerisms and voices. This is important as there’s quite a bit of fast paced character changing. The script devised by McCaskill and Director Craig Geenty is funny, absurd, and deftly avoids a sentimental ending by keeping the characters real. It also includes references to narcotics and inappropriate bird/human interaction.

A fun start to the Comedy Festival.

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by Tom on April 25, 2016 in Suburbs, Walking

Abandoned railway stations. Precarious swingbridges over precipitous chasms. Hidden valleys full of lush forest. Remnants of ancient kāinga.

Those might not be what you’d expect from the recently-opened Paekakariki Escarpment track. I certainly expected rugged landscapes and magnificent views, and you get those in abundance, but there’s much more here to be discovered than you might imagine from passing by on the train or coastal highway.

Swingbridge over a chasm along the Paekakariki Escarpment track.

For such a diverse and often dramatic track, it’s remarkably easy to reach from the city. The best access is by train, since each end is a short walk from a station on the Kāpiti line. There’s some information on the Te Araroa site, but unfortunately no map yet, so I made one on Google Maps showing the track, with access from railway stations at either end (I’ll add it to OpenStreetMap when I get the chance).

If you start from Pukerua Bay station, the easiest way is to cross the tracks, take a shortcut through the playground to Sea Vista Dr, cut across the grass at Muri reserve, then follow the Te Araroa signs east along the railway corridor. This first stretch is less picturesque than the main track, being sandwiched between the main trunk line and private land studded with KEEP OUT signs, but if you’re the sort of weirdo who appreciates edgelands landscapes and crumbling infrastructure, there’s plenty to keep you interested. The recently decommissioned Muri Station still bears a cheerful mural, but encroaching graffiti and broken windows lend it an eerie out-of-time aura. Further along, an ivy-encrusted concrete shelter shows signs of unofficial adaptive reuse: someone installed a large gas barbecue within its spalling walls, and that too is now succumbing to rust and creepers.

Abandoned railway station at Muri

Once the railway reaches the tunnels, the walking track rapidly ascends. I thought I was being clever by taking the “downhill” route, but the track jags sharply up and down so much that even in this direction the total ascent is nearly 500m, compared to 580m in the southbound direction (for comparison, Mt Kaukau is 445m above sea level). It’s not a hardcore tramping track, but it’s no walk in the park either, with unforgiving sets of vertiginous steps that are an acrophobe’s worst nightmare. On a clear, still day the endless views and crystalline waters below will take away what breath you have left. In a howling northerly…well, you’d have to be a lot braver than me to attempt it. Keep reading →

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More posts…

Snapshots of Mount Victoria

by Tom Ackroyd April 23, 2016

A few photos I took as I walked the dog in the Mount Victoria town belt, and of the unveiling of a new living sculpture at the Innermost Gardens.   “A Living Sculpture” On April 3rd, Grant Lyon’s sculpture “Yeah, Nah” was unveiled by Wellington mayor Celia Wade-Brown at the Innermost Gardens in Mount Victoria, at […]

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Beggars belief

by Tom April 8, 2016

You may have seen yesterday’s DomPost story on begging, which trumpeted that the Council was “considering banning begging or fining good samaritans.” This generated much justified outrage, even though deeper into the article it became clearer that this was just one extreme option among a wide range of measures that had been considered after complaints from the public, […]

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Review: The Sevens Sons of Supparath

by librarykris April 1, 2016

The State of Supparath has been at war with the demon lord Krunk for ninety years. Finally they have captured him (it?). The seven states sit in judgement and sentence Krunk to a terrible punishment. In order to enact their decree they send the Seven Sons of Supparath across the seven sections of the state to […]

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The most Wellington of Wellington meals

by Joanna March 26, 2016

This post is sponsored by Cuisine magazine. Thanks! Go buy a subscription.  We’re often full of  advice about places to go for a feed, because as Madonna said, everyone should experience eating out, but sometimes some of us do like to stay at home and cook. So, harking back to the time when we challenged y’all […]

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Review: The ACB with Honora Lee

by librarykris March 23, 2016

Perry is the only child of two loving and hard-working parents. She’s inquisitive, enthusiastic and overwhelmed with after-school activities. When an opportunity comes up for her to spend more time in the home with her Gran (instead of tennis) she jumps at it. Over the year as Perry gets to know her Gran and the […]

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A journey around the Billiards Room (and tables)

by Sue Tyler March 14, 2016

Last week, Wellingtonista’s ace literary team was lucky enough to get invited along to the pre-launch Writers’ Week Welcome, held within the Museum Art Hotel‘s very swanky Billiards Room. Following on from last year’s sale of the Courtenay-district landmark (let’s not go busting out the dreaded “iconic” just yet) to Sydney-based EVT (Event, Hospitality and […]

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