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Beautiful bequeathing friends of the Mahurangi

by 17 Jun 2015Membership and bequests1 comment

Rawinia Roa and granddaughters

Fine-Looking Girlie: An elderly Davey Darroch, the legendary scow builder, told Iraihi Kataraina Paul née Sullivan, left, she was ‘…a fine-looking woman when he knew her as a girl, and she still was.’ Universally known as Girlie, Iraihi Paul was one of Dr Ronald Locker’s principal sources when writing Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi. Also pictured, at Mita Bay, is Iraihi’s sister Julia, her grandmother Rawinia Roa, and Annette ‘Dolly’ Wynyard. image Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi

Possibly the only thing they shared was their love for the Mahurangi.

One was a British-born immigrant and bomber navigator. The other, a 34th, or thereabouts, generation New Zealander, and Pukapuka postmistress.

Wilfred ‘Wilf’ John Davy Allan was a founding member of Mahurangi Action Incorporated, providing the organisation’s original name of Friends of the Mahurangi. An air-force navigator, he authored, styled W J D Allan, a slew of books on aircraft instrumentation, meteorology, and navigation during the war. It is just conceivable that these humble handbooks helped turn the tide of World War II.

Heinemann published Allan’s tome, Power and Sail: A Complete Guide to Yachting and Boating in New Zealand, in 1975, but it was his prolific pieces on wastewater treatment, carried by the Rodney and Waitemata Times, that resulted in a legacy that would long outlast his quickly-outdated treatise on boating. The lengthy newspaper articles, detailing the limitations of the mechanical, Pasveer ditch, style of sewage treatment plant, in a town whose leaky old sewage system, during periods of extreme rainfall, was notorious for flows many times its normal rates, directly led, in December 1974, to the formation of Mahurangi Action, which in turn meant that, 18 years on, a willing publisher would exist for Dr Ronald Locker’s timeless Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi.

Cover of Radio Navigation

One-Man War Manual Machine: During the early years of World War II, Wilfred Allan wrote a slew handbooks relating to aircraft navigation, now long since superseded but possibly helping, at the time, to save democracy. In peacetime, his authoritative newspaper articles besieging Warkworth Town Council—his employer at the time; he was the town’s potable water treatment plant operator—over its problematic plans for wastewater treatment, to the formation of Mahurangi Action and, in turn, to the publication of Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi.

Iraihi Kataraina Paul née Sullivan was the great-granddaughter of William and Hawakirangi Grant, whose family name displaced that of little Motu Kauri, long since pine- rather than kauri-cloaked. Born 1911 and known universally as ‘Girlie’, diminutive Iraihi shared her mother and grandmother’s bearing and beauty, and was greatly admired and respected, not least of all for her knowledge of Mahurangi history—she was one of the principal sources for Dr Ronald Locker, when writing his magnum opus. It is likely that through that consultation, the society earned Iraihi’s interest and respect—Dr Locker was serving as a committee member at that time. In any event, after her death in 1991, a $1000 bequest was received from the estate of ‘I K Paul’. This was a generous sum; the probable equivalent of 22 years of her salary as a rural post mistress during the Great Depression. In the event, the bequest was split equally between two publishing projects. The first was the slender and quaint Tales of the Mahurangi, hand-written and illustrated by Harry Lewis Bioletti, 1913–2013, who at the time was Mahurangi Action’s chairman. But without the then-intact $1000 bequest, the committee-member proponents of publishing Locker’s masterful history would have struggled to gain approval for the project.

Wilfred Allan’s 1998 bequest of $2000, in contrast, although equally unexpected, was less surprising. Its timing was fortuitous, given Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi’s mounting, eventual $38 000 cost of publication. When Michael Thorne joined the committee of Mahurangi Action, he brought with him a mass of marketing knowhow from the business world, but equally, a ton of humanity. At an annual general meeting, Michael, had met a number of elderly people, some of whom he discovered had quietly dedicated decades of service to the organisation. To honour these people during their lifetime, Michael suggested a class of honorary life membership be introduced. The first person to be honoured was Wilfred, in 1991, and the gesture restored the earlier, closer contact with the society, and the writer helping by subediting and formatting an environmental morality play Wilfred had latterly turned his hand to writing, and which he hoped Mahurangi College students might perform. Disappointingly, the college deemed its pupils too busy to perform the play.

In retrospect, a great disservice was inadvertently done in respect to both bequests, in that neither is mentioned in either of the hardcopy editions of Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi. Iraihi Paul, at least, was credited in the acknowledgements, and features in the text, including as a source, and in the illustrations. Of Wilfred Allan, shamefully, carelessly but most certainly unintentionally, there was no mention—until now, in the foreword to the online addition. This belated redress is thanks, indirectly, to Auckland Council’s proactive policy of helping community groups build capacity, whereby the writer, as secretary of Mahurangi Action, got to attend a stimulating workshop on sustainable funding, which included a useful reminder of the importance of ongoing respectful communication with supporters—communication that sometimes, just sometimes, results in a bequest.

Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi is living testimony to that principle, and testimony to two beautiful, bequeathing friends of the Mahurangi.


Sustainable Energy, Figure 11

Advocate for Energy Efficiency: Even in the 1970s, with the tide of public opinion strongly against all things nuclear, Wilfred Allan believed Aotearoa should have been building expertise in fission. In 1987, he and his friend Henry Phibbs, a former Royal Navy lieutenant commander, proposed a 20-kilometre shipping canal between Riverhead and Helensville, to a no-doubt nonplussed Parliament. A failure of successive governments to anything but build more motorways has left Aotearoa hopelessly fossil-fuel dependent, and like the West generally, blaming China for global warming, despite its per-capita greenhouse gas emissions being a fraction of those of developed countries. Chart Sustainable Energy – Without the Hot Air

Dereliction of Duty of Care The principal, from 1970 to 1993, of the college that had no time for Wilfred Allan’s play was Alon Shaw, the same man who, it would later be revealed, had put his school’s reputation ahead of the protection of those many of his female pupils abused by New Zealand’s then worst serial rapist, the, at the time, ever-so-popular teacher Thomas ‘Tom’ Edward Leigh. Leigh’s fate was to die in jail following his conviction for 30 rape and other sexual abuse offences that the judge described as probably only representative of his crimes; Shaw escaped official censure.

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Mahurangi Action milestones mark some significant achievements

Updated 6 November 2018
Founded, as Friends of the Mahurangi
Tribunal recommends Warkworth wastewater be excluded from the Mahurangi River
Revived the Mahurangi Regatta
Supported Mahurangi West-led campaign that saw off plans to build a road to Te Muri and park up to 2000 cars behind its beach
Conducted poll on aspirations for Mahurangi in 25 years
Publication of Dr Ronald Locker’s 416-page Jade River : A History of the Mahurangi
Successful High Court defence of the public’s entitlement to access Jamieson Bay
Revival of the Mahurangi Regatta Prize-Giving Dance
Leading role in supporting Auckland Regional Council’s Mahurangi Action Plan
Mahurangi Magazine goes online
Establishment of first scientifically designed trials demonstrating that forestry-style nursery methods could slash the cost of raising indigenous plants
Leading role in developing Mahurangi Action Plan: A strategic plan for the catchment 2010–2030
With property holder, establishment of the Mahurangi Farm-Forestry Trail
Warkworth Sediment Improvements Pilot Phase I
Preservation of car-free Te Muri, forever
Culmination of 42-year bid to see council commitment to exclude Warkworth wastewater from the Mahurangi river and harbour
First Mahurangi Regatta held with new, long-term principal sponsor, Teak Construction
Submitted only proposal—for two local boards to replace the current Rodney Local Board—deemed a reasonably practicable option to Auckland’s governance arrangements
Inaugurated, with One Warkworth and supported by Mahurangi Matters, the Warkworth Town Hall Talks
Initiated, with philanthropist member, Mahurangi-based green-lipped mussel reef restoration research project
Initiated, with the Mahurangi River Restoration Trust, ‘Up the Mahu!’



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