Tena tatou katoa!
He mihi nunui, he mihi māhana, he mihi aroha kia tatou katoa
Sometimes when Im talking about where I come from I say ‘He uri o Tainui ahau’ - I am a descendant of Tainui, but I live here in Ōtautahi under the korowai o Kāi Tahu.
My papa Uekaha was born in Kawhia and was the last child delivered at home by my koro Claude Wahanui. He is one of 17 tamariki - not unusual for those times by any means. He grew up speaking Te Reo Maori and learned fast at school that you had to speak English or you were physically punished, so the disconnect between education and whanau started right there for him, as a child.
Dad arrived in Christchurch as part of the great Māori Urban Drift of the 1960’s… What a time it must have been! Thousands of young people took part in the Trade Trainee Scheme and lived at Rēhua Marae while they studied. Dad has got so many funny stories of his fresh as arrival in Christchurch. He would introduce himself to everyone…The dairy owner, the bus driver... And once got into big trouble for bringing home some ducks from the river Avon, in disbelief that they were so easy to catch! Papa met our Mum Lyn around this time. She had started work for the then Department of Māori Affairs as a secretary. My Nana was not best pleased by their relationship. They have hilarious stories of moving in together and Dad having to hide in the garden shed for hours when my Nana would come over!
Ko au te mataamua o te whanau, I'm the first born in our whanau - then comes my sister Ninakaye, and then my brother Tiki, and many years later our youngest brother Anaru, who is now with the stars and our Tūpuna. By the time I was born my Papa wasn't speaking Maori at all. It was locked away in his head and he wanted us kids to learn English as our first language. However, Mum was a strong advocate for Maori language and I remember her instructing us to ‘whakapainga te tepu” and “horoi ou ringaringa!” Dad wouldn't participate because it brought back feelings for him that weren't positive, at that time in his life.
We couldn't afford extra curricular things, but my parents are very creative and all us kids have inherited that DIY mentality. Dad was a panel beater and over the years he made bike stands, a trampoline, a play gym, a vault and springboard among other things. He was our netball coach, and gymnastics and tennis tutor. He made me a lunchbox with my name painstakingly carved and painted on the front in silver paint. Mum knitted clothes for us, enforced arts and crafts and letter writing sessions, and did various odd night courses in cooking and one day returned home triumphantly with a microwave and then subjected us to increasingly interesting meals - capsicum stuffed with cottage cheese, meatless meatloaf… Oh boy.
My Mum is amazing! She's a strong and wise woman - if you are having a crisis she is the woman you want in your corner. She has lived through the worst thing that can happen to a mama - the death of a child. Anaru was born - as our friend from Smile Dial says - a “different kind of perfect”. Anaru had cerebral palsy and he lived an extraordinary life until he was 7. After he passed away, Mum went on to receive a degree in social work, and set about making some of the experiences she endured as a parent of a disabled child a thing of the past for other parents. Thats what she does - she sees injustice and she fights to make things better.
I come from a long line of strong amazing women. The last time I stood and talked to a crowd was at my amazing Nanas funeral a year ago. I learned many wahine lessons from this tiny lady from the Scottish MacDuff clan. How to speak up. Never concede anything. How to hold yourself with discipline. How to value beauty in things that are well made. Always listen to your inner voice, and make sure you have at least one other language. Make sure your handbag contains everything you could possibly need, in any given situation.
My brother and sister and I have a whanau business called Tikidub Productions. My brother Tiki started out as a sound engineer with local band Salmonella Dub, before eventually writing songs, performing and becoming their front man, and writing and producing some of their most well known tunes. After 10 years of touring and living a crazy life, he left the band to pursue his own path. My sister Ninakaye became his manager, and I run the merchandise and sales component of our business.
Being a successful independent company in Aotearoa requires guts, passion, a strong vision and a lot of investment. And - the right people on your team. I think to a large degree, being siblings cuts through a lot of crap. We have each others backs 24/7. We communicate via email and our entire world is digital…planning, calendars, reminders, cloud storage…everything is online because we live in different cities. Ive had to learn a whole new skill set in order to stay on top of the workload and work smarter not harder.
My sister Ninakaye is the rock of ages. She's our wahine queen in all regards - the middle child and the most hardworking mama I know. A certified kemetic yoga instructor and Zumba teacher. She holds a degree in Maori performing Arts. An amazing mentor and mama of 3 amazing tamariki. She's the moral compass of our company and often is the one making the call on the direction we sail in. Doesn't mean to say our brother wont jump overboard anytime he feels like it, and bloody swim off on his own adventure….but we simply change course and scoop him up when he’s ready and on we go…
And then theres our daughter Forest Valentine. She's the light of our lives! Smart, gorgeous, sassy, funny, passionate, educated. Everything I wanted for our girl, she has gone out there and got for herself on her own terms because she was raised by a whole village of awesomeness. She’s my rock. My diamond. She’s all of her Nannys. She has 2 degrees and is the co-founder of UC Women in Law and former President of the Maori Law Students Society Te Putairiki. What a legacy. She's now living in Wellington working for the Ministry of Social Development. She is FIERCE.
After Forest was born in Wellington, we moved back to Christchurch to be near whanau, and I started managing a business called The Vault, a design store upstairs in Cashel street where the old Fails Cafe used to be. I helped fit out the space in 1993 and worked there for 18 years. Yeah! I know thats a long time. I told myself that when Forest left school I was going to go and do something new and amazing!
She started university on the 21st of February 2011… and I remember thinking theres my milestone…come and gone! Then the next day, 22 Feb 2011, everything changed.
When I think back to that day in the central city its like looking at the sun, it hurts my eyes and my heart and I instead focus on details… The graze on my knees, the smell of the concrete dust, the sound of the alarms.
The Vault was demolished in August, with almost everything inside it. After months of lobbying and being a giant pain in the ass with local authorities, I was allowed in for a few minutes with an engineer and a backpack to get the hard drive and anything that would fit in my bag. And then watched it come down from behind the cordon, and wondered what the hell I was going to do now.
Remember those early days when we weren't even sure we would have a central city again… There was crazy talk about how it would be built instead in Hagley Park.
My man said to me after the earthquake - babe I want to do something different, something I LOVE. This was the mantra of almost all our friends. Leave town and find peace, or stay and be part of change and writing our new story.
So, I heard about the ReStart container mall concept and I thought - I can do this. 18 years of contacts, experience, and skills. I can so do this. I approached a friend of mine who was a startup, branding, website expert and together we dreamed up and opened HAPA in ReStart, October 2011, 8 months after the earthquake.
What an experience that was. We built and fitted out the store while it was under red zone cordon which was a unique experience in itself. Under the watchful eyes of the army we all put everything we had on the line to open this project, in the dust and debris of the fallen CBD, in the shadow of buildings that were still to come down.
The day that ReStart opened, was also the day that the cordon around the heart of the city came down. The first time that the people of Christchurch were able to see what was left of the CBD. Ill never forget it… 25,000 people came through that weekend. For some people it was the first time they had been in a crowd since the quakes.
Do you remember those days… When your anxiety lessened every time you saw someone you hadn't seen since the quakes. Like your heart said - yes there's one more accounted for, even if your brain already knew they were fine. Like a shepherd counting sheep.
As hard as those early days were I’d do it again. We felt a little bit like pioneers. Like we were on a frontier. A tiny oasis in the middle of utter chaos. However all around ReStart buildings were coming down and we operated under some stressful conditions…aftershocks still rolling through on the regular. Constant dust and noise from demolition and red zone detritus. Frazzled nerves, asbestos stress, upset and shellshocked people, an air of uncertainty as we battled to remain open and optimistic about the future. Then, the Xmas eve quake - remember that one…it closed down ReStart and the suburban malls and nearly broke my heart…reminded me how vulnerable and risky our business was, as we didnt have EQ insurance, as it took almost 2 years before any insurance company would provide a new Christchurch business with EQ cover. I remember my broker joking and saying - if theres a a quake your best bet is to hope for a fire to break out. Huh.
In August 2015 we remortgaged our house, bought out my business partner and then opened a second store in the beautiful Tannery Emporium in Woolston.
And now here we are 6 years on from that new beginning. ReStart - now rebranded ‘ the Container Mall’ has outlasted the critics and become a force in its own right, a destination for tourists and locals alike.
When you come visit HAPA and you will see that our focus is local design, we support and promote more than 200 Canterbury businesses, artists and suppliers. Locally designed, produced and created art, jewellery, and homeware is our core business. Internationally the craft movement grows stronger and stronger as people react negatively to mass produced and imported goods with a big footprint, and increasingly value handmade, handcrafted, and locally produced quality items. That is our happy place. Im now looking to take that further and focus and promote products that really reflect our cultural diversity, that speak to our sense of place and nationhood, that talk about who we are and where we are in our bilingual, multilingual, multicultural glory.
Im also on the executive of the Central City Business Association, which we established 8 years ago. Our focus is the social, cultural and economic well-being of businesses and tenants in a defined CBD area. Our diverse executive advocates for our members on matters that are important to inner-city businesses and provide a collective voice and bargaining power to lobby local and central government on those issues.
As you can imagine, the role of our group has changed a lot over the last 8 years. Prequake we were concerned with street cleaning, security, the new tiling and refurbishment of the city mall area, and trying to coordinate shopping hours across the city. We had close to 700 members. Post quake we have built our membership back up from 0 to 200 and climbing.
Its an unprecedented time in the central city - the changes are coming quickly and fast as the retail precinct is taking shape, workers are returning to the central city, the buzz is building. Our organisation faces challenges as the City Council looks to establish a BID (Business Improvement District) in the CBD and will take expressions of interest soon about who might take that on. We are working hard to show that our organisation has the mandate and numbers to smash that out of the park. Watch this space.
Heoi ano, he mihi whakamutunga tenei - a proverb - Nā tō rourou nā taku rourou - ka ora ai te iwi. With your food basket and my food basket the people will thrive. Mauri ora tatou katoa!