Among the earliest residential homes established in Haumoana were those purchased by the maternal grandparents of local kaumatua Darky (Te Waara or Miki) Unahi in Haumoana Rd in the first decade of the 1900s for his mother, her sister and their families.
Darky was born in 1920, the fourth of 14 children, seven girls and seven boys. His grandfather worked at the freezing works at Pakipaki with about 50 others.
“That was before Whakatu and Tomoana. There was no chain in those days. It was like a shearing shed where you worked solo. You did the whole lot slaughtering the sheep as they came in one by one, you cut their throats waited for them to get still, then gutted them and pelted them and took their tongues out. That’s how they did the count the number of tongues.”
He describes a big wooden wharf at the Tukituki river mouth where the present day groyne is, stretching perhaps 100 metres further out. “The sea was much further out and you could dive off the wharf. There were big bathing sheds there and a playground with swings.”
He says trawlers used to come in to the wharf to offload fish which were transported to Napier on heavy trucks with tubeless tyres. “They would come in with 44 gallon drums of petrol for the boats
and take the fish back.”
The family routine included his mother rising early to get the washing on the line avoid the combination of wind off the sea and dust from the metal roads once people were heading off to work.
In those days, the area behind Hyla Rd was mostly swamp. “It never changed much until after the war.” The swamp was drained, says Unahi, by poking a broom handle in the ground, inserting sticks of dynamite, linking it all and blowing it up. That’s how they drained it. There was no other way. They couldn’t get tractors in there.”
When the big flood of 1936 resulted in the river overflowing and many properties in Haumoana being inundated, the Unahi family moved to the house on the corner of Beach Rd and East Rd which became known for many years as ‘Unahi’s corner’. “We leased it until I started shearing with my brothers down in central Hawke’s Bay and then they bought it for £200. My brother in law Bill Jones and my sister stayed in before they went to Havelock North.”
Before WW2 Darky says there were only four Maori families living in Haumoana, the Unahi family, Manaina, the Whatapau whanau in Park Rd and the Wepa family “down by the floodgate and pump station”.
While all metal crushing was originally done at the government plant at Awatoto to help build the railways, Unahi says establishing another plant at Black Bridge providing plenty of opportunity for locals from the 1940s. “The plant was owned by Ron Nelson who came from Waverley; that’s how everyone got their heavy driver’s licences carting crushed metal to the railway station in Clive.”
In February 1958 Darky Unahi and his wife Rereokapuni (Rere) moved into their own home on the same site where he was born in Haumoana Rd to raise their own family.
“The reason I built our here was I thought as soon as that new bridge comes across they’ll get sewerage. I don’t mind paying for that…All along the other side of Hyla Rd a chap named Maine had tomatoes then he sub-divided it in 1960s. They were all Poms who went in there and we called it Coronation St. Then they found septic tanks would work they refused to pay for a new sewage system.”
Unahi also used to be the go-to person to issue permits for kina, paua and fish when local Maori wanted to exercise their customary rights for a tangi or family celebration. “I gave it up because so many were going out getting the fish and selling it somewhere else.”
Apart from shearing, Unahi took on a range of jobs including ploughing the land at Te Awanga where Watties grew peas, corn, beetroot and beans.
The local kaumatua, Ratana minister, rugby coach, elder at Matahiwi marae, one time Hastings District councillor and keen fisherman is much respected in the local community. He and his wife had a long association with the Haumoana School.