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No. 43 (June 1963)
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Miss Kia Riwai, the Maori Welfare Officer at Motueka for many years, manages to know by name an amazing number of the seasonal workers, and always has time for a chat.

People of Motueka

Motueka, near Nelson, is where most of our beer and cigarettes come from: it is here that most of the hops and tobacco grown in New Zealand are to be found.

Hops and tobacco are very fussy about their soil and climate, but the wide, sunny valleys of Nelson suit them perfectly. The district is also famous for its apples, and for small fruits such as raspberries.

All these crops need a great deal of attention, and most of this work is done by seasonal workers, about 60 per cent of whom are Maori.

Each year about two thousand of them come. Most of them work on tobacco farms, helping with the planting, weeding, hoeing, and harvesting of these expensive plants. Miss Kia Riwai, who has been the Maori Affairs Department's Welfare Officer at Motueka for five years now, told ‘Te Ao Hou’ that the growers prefer to employ Maori workers when they can, because their fingers are so adaptable; they do not break so much of the leaf.

Quite a number of workers come down from six to nine months of the year, and there are many regulars who come back year after year, often to the same farm. Many of the people in our photograph of the Sandy Bay Maori Club, for instance, have been coming down for a number of years now, and they have built up a strong group spirit which is very apparent in their Maori items.

For many people, the friendly company of the other workers is one of the main things bringing them back each year to these sunny farms. One aspect of this, Miss Riwai told us, is that ‘a lot of the Maori girls who come down here often say, just look at this, the Maoris and Pakehas working together and playing together — you never see this back home’.

One reason for the friendly atmosphere is that the whole of the boss's family works in the fields with the other workers. There is no snobbery about work in Motueka; all that matters is looking after that precious tobacco leaf. Most of the tobacco farms are fairly small (the crop is so valuable that they can afford to be), and a large number of the bosses were once seasonal workers themselves. Quite a few of the bosses are Maori; Miss Riwai thought there must be 40 or 50 Maori bosses at least.

Seventy-five per cent of the workers are girls, and though they are not allowed to work at Motueka if they are under 17, many of them

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are very young. To some extent Motueka, like any other district which employs many seasonal workers, means, to the people who go there, the chance to have a break from their usual routine, and the chance to get away for a while from their own home district. It is a way of having a holiday and earning some money at the same time.

Although it is a very pleasant way to have a working holiday, Miss Riwai told us that she was concerned at the number of very young girls who came down there; sometimes they came straight after finishing school, and without ever having been away from home on their own before. Also, there is a surprisingly large number of girls who have had a good education, and are not making the best use of this.

After the season is over, many of the Maori workers go on to Christchurch to work, and the Maori Affairs Department tries to assist them in finding suitable work and accommodation there.

One of Miss Riwai's many tasks is to help the seasonal workers to organise such spare-

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Sandy Bay Youth Club (above) won second place in the Te Awhina Competitions. Ngatapu Youth Club, from Dovedale, gained first place.

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Two elders watching the competitions were (left to right) Mr L. W. Manihera, from Bay of Plenty, and Mr R. Warren Stevens, of Motueka.

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A good many of the seasonal workers are very young, and for many it is their first time away from home. This year, in a new experiment, the Maori Affairs Department has arranged for a group of workers to live, like a family unit, under the care of Mr and Mrs Poinga. The Poingas and their ‘family’ all come from the same town, Opotiki; this may be one reason why the arrangement has proved an outstanding success.

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Canon Kaa, who is at present working among South Island Maoris, was one of the visitors at the Te Awhina Competitions.

time activities as weekend sport and visits to other areas, and it was she who was largely responsible for organising competitions held last March in Motueka's Te Awhina hall.

This was the first time in Motueka that cultural competitions had been held on such an ambitious scale, but the occasion was so successful that it is planned to make it an annual event. Though the groups had had only a limited time in which to rehearse, it was interesting and most cheering to see how many accomplished performers could be mustered together from a community such as this, and to see the enthusiasm and vigour that the ones who were beginning brought to their action songs.

The group winning the Te Awhina trophy was the Ngatapu Youth Club from Dovedale, and second place was taken by the all-girl Sandy Bay Youth Club.

The weekend of competitions also included one of the biggest hangis ever held in the district.

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The Adult Education Centre in Auckland is holding a Leadership Conference at Auckland University on July 12, 13, and 14.

The four speakers, who will present papers dealing with different aspects of Maori life in the city, will be Mr A. Awatere, district Maori Welfare Officer; Mr W. Karaka, a trade union official; Mr R. Oppenheim, a teacher; and Mr H. D. B. Dansey, Auckland Star Maori affairs expert.


An interesting fact about Maoris and alcohol has been turned up by the National Society of Alcoholism. It is hardly news that, as the Society remarks, ‘there is a very grave national problem of excessive drinking among Maori people, particularly the young ones’.

But, the Society adds, it has discovered that in spite of this, there are few Maoris who are alcoholics: in this respect, the Maori people present no problem.

One of the main reasons for this, they say, is that ‘while admitting to the full that the Maori people suffer from tensions, they are not the same tensions that afflict the European’.


One of America's largest show-business agencies is arranging to tour a troupe of Maori entertainers through the United States in 1964. Mr Harry M. Miller, a New Zealand entrepreneur, said recently that it would include appearances on network television, and that the troupe might also entertain at the World's Fair in New York.

‘This could be one of the greatest opportunities New Zealand has had to publicize this country in the United States,’ he said.

The party's repertoire would include poi dancing, hakas, action songs and stick games.

He envisaged a troupe of about 30. He had already been scouting for possible talent through Mr John Waititi, Maori educationalist and lecturer.

Mr Miller said he had not previously known such awareness of New Zealand as existed now in the United States. People were talking about Peter Snell and Bob Charles, and a travel film on New Zealand was showing in conjunction with the new Hitchcock film ‘The Birds’.


We have been asked to mention a playwriting competition which is being held to commemorate the Centennial of the City of Hamilton. Entrants must be New Zealanders by birth, naturalisation or citizenship, and all plays entered must have a playing time of not less than 90 minutes or more than 120 minutes. Play can have two or more acts.

A prize of £100 for the winning play is offered by Messrs Plastic Products Ltd. of Hamilton, and the play will be performed by the Hamilton Playbox Repertory Society. Closing date for entries is 1 December 1963, and the organisers hope very much that there will be some Maoris among the entrants. Entry forms are obtainable from the Hamilton Playbox Society. Box 116. Hamilton.

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Last November in Perth, in Western Australia, there was held an international sports meeting of a new kind, known as the Paraplegic Empire Games. It was specially organised for sportsmen who suffer from physical handicaps.
One of the athletes who won honours at Perth was a Maori, Mr Pompey Heremia. Pompey, who is at the Civilian Rehabilitation Centre at Otara, Auckland, won a gold medal in the javelin throw, and very narrowly missed a further medal when he finished a close fifth in the Lightweight Lifting Competition.

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The Governor-General, Sir Bernard Fergusson, has accepted the office of Patron of the Maori Education Foundation.

In his letter of acceptance, His Excellency said that he was very impressed to learn of the wide field the Foundation intends to cover, was delighted to accept the office and would like to be kept fully informed of the work being accomplished. He enclosed a donation to the Foundation funds.


The Maori Carpentry Training Centre in Wellington, which is proving itself an outstanding success, reports that in its first year examinations at the end of 1962, 27 boys passed out of the 31 who sat the examination. The successful apprentices were:

J. Andrews, R. Robinson, J. Haitana, J. Taha, D. Matoe, C. Broughton (Taranaki); T. Collins, D. Wanoa, B. Huhu, A. Gordon, Tuakana Manuel (Gisborne); P. McLean, M. Low, Tom Manuel, V. Henderson, J. Crawford (Ruatoria); L. Whenuaroa (Taihape); R. Albert (Ohakune); Carkeek (Otaki); S. Rarere, P. Taumata (Wairoa); R. Babbington (Tokomaru Bay); G. Kaipara (Whakatane); S. Koko, R. Hanara (Hastings); J. Kimura (Hamilton); E. Blackburn (Raetihi).