Séan Cosgrave takes us on a trip down memory lane to a childhood that revolved around the awa...
My parents, Stan and Vera Cosgrave bought a quarter acre section in Abbotleigh Avenue in 1955. The land had originally been farmed by the
Gustafsons, who also owned and operated Gloria Motors and Petrol Station, where Servo Cafe is today, back when Te Atatū Road ran past there (now Old Te Atatū Road).
Our section was covered in scrub and bush so my mum was given a slasher. Originating from Scotland she had no idea how to use it and it must have been no easy task! But the joy of finding a river at the back, looking across to bare farmland with sheep, cows and a couple of orchards, surely outweighed that.
My brother Brent was born in 1959, followed by David in 1962, then me (Séan) in 1966, and finally my sister in 1967. Brent remembers the Air Force planes from Whenuapai flying in formation, sweeping just above water-dropping bombs in preparation for the war in Vietnam. He also remembers parachuters landing further up the river near Brighams Creek. I can remember lying in bed and hearing the planes starting up and revving the engine before take-off.
Back then our lives centred around the river which most called Henderson Creek. This is where we learned to boat, swim, fish and camp… true adventures with family and neighbourhood friends. My dad and our neighbour Trevor Rehe had launches moored at the bottom of the section. Flounder nets were set out at low tide and I can still remember the smell of fish smoking in Trev's smoker.
We lived for the full tide when occasionally the older kids would paddle across to the Massey side and raid the orchard. On one of these occasions, a local lad got hit in the rear with a salt gun from an angry farmer! I recall my much older first cousin swimming across with watermelons.
At low tide it was mudslides and the best place was at the end of Tawa Rd where the Gustafsons apparently swam while farming. It was also where we did our eeling, sticking one arm down a hole and hoping it's the tail you got! Then came the mud fights. We had our own wee community with the Rehe, Fabian, Munro, Cornall, Barford, Gustafson, Dickenson, Beuth, and Ross families. Trev and his friend Rod built a jetty, that's still in use today. Back then, we always asked Trev if we could go down and he would stand on the bank overlooking the jetty, keeping an eye out, much like an old chief. It was later we found out he was the son of a paramount chief of Te Arawa.
Sometimes the river was dirty, swimming alongside water rats or human waste that we jokingly splashed aside, or the red water in the upper reaches from wine dumped at Henderson, or wash out from the old dump located near where the rowing clubs are today.
We grew up in a time when everyone in the street knew each other, or of each other, went to school together and played and partied. Sometimes as kids, a group of us would stroll to the end of Totara Rd and cross large concrete pipes to follow the stream that ran alongside Gill Ave to Kelvin Cres and its sandy beach. Just out from the beach in a stretch of mangroves, we would dig around in the mud for gum.
During tadpole season we would go to the large ponds to the right at the end of Beach Road when most of the area was paddocks and an orchard. It was on this land the Pony Club originated before moving down to its current location.
Another set of paddocks started opposite Te Atatū Baptist church across to the waterfront and motorway - this was Patterson's and leased by Judy Voulaire. My sister and I had horses here until my early teens, my sister still rides and competes. Here again a friendly community, mostly of residents from Te Atatū North.
As a child, we knew our heritage was Scottish, Irish and Māori. The closest I learned about anything Māori (besides from my friends) was learning the haka from Dr Pita Sharples or Dad taking me to Māori cultural performances out south. It wasn’t until my 20s that I started looking into our whakapapa, a side which none of us knew. It was then that I found out that our ancestral waka, Te Mataatua, visited this area, travelling through the Waitematā Harbour.
Originally Te Mataatua left the north captained by Toroa and travelled down the west coast and up the east coast to Kahahoroa or modern-day Whakatane. Onboard were Toroa's siblings Puhi, Muriwai and family, and Toroa's daughter Wairaka.
Puhi later took the Mataatua back north, calling into the Waitematā where Wairaka decided to stay, hence the name Owairaka or the dwelling place of Wairaka. Pareira, a niece to Toi Te Huatahi, settled at the mouth of our awa, which is where it got its name, Te Wai o Pareira, meaning ‘the waters of Pareira’. Toi's people are said to have inhabited the Bay of Plenty before the arrival of Te Arawa, Tainui and Mataatua. The story of Toi is largely connected with Mataatua descendants.
It was after completing this mahi on my whakapapa, that I was given the name Tiki Tangiwai.
Editors note: You may remember Séan AKA Tiki, won a Rivercare T-Shirt and a generous gift voucher from Refill Nation by submitting this quote about our awa:
"Love how this Awa has given so much over the past 55yrs of living next to it, from swimming, fishing, floundering, mudslides to mud fights with the neighbours and then to find a further connection to my tribal waka, the Mataatua as it travelled the Waitematā Harbour area.
Na mihi nui Te wai o Pareira."
Kia ora Séan Rivercare thanks you for sharing your connection to the awa and for this nostalgic journey through your childhood memories.