And so from humble beginnings....
What pleasure, nearly six years on, to see Arakainga nestled into her
home. The day couldn't have been better - a Sunday late in April begun
with an unhurried breakfast at the Tree House complete with French film
crew, then out along the Hokianga's rough roads, Tony with the window
down waving to every passing local.
A relatively quick stop at the Marae, refusing the generous offers of
lunch and conversation in our eagerness to begin the ascent across the
paddocks stopping occasionally to catch our breath and look back at the
shimmering harbour below us. And finally through the bush, Mark
thrilled at its abundance, to the true tree house. Wow. Fantastic to
see her in such magical surroundings. Amazing to enjoy lunch and a cup
of hot tea inside. And unbelievable to think Tony and Helen carted it
all up, load by load, driven only by their passion for realising the
Of course the beginnings weren't really that humble - an
audacious plan to piggyback - literally - on the respectable shoulders
of Habitat for Humanity and Keith Hay Homes (thanks for the truck!) and
construct a truly sustainable house in the heart of Aotea Square. To
complete the farmyard scene, Mark and Megan ran around like headless
chooks, dealing with photo-op hungry politicians, nervous academics and
willing-if-not-so-able student builders. Ever-jammy Verney managed to
break his arm just in time to become the official video cameraman.
And though it all Tony worked away to pull off a quiet coup that set
his place in the hearts and minds of two-dozen students, and sealed his
fate with the Planning Department!
And of course, Arakainga wasn't really the beginning - that happened
earlier, when Tony stepped off a plane from the Social Summit in
Copenhagen and suggested to his students (us included) "wouldn't it be
great to get some students to Nairobi!" Nairobi, New York, Istanbul,
Aotea Square. To quote Matt Hogetts: a wild roller-coaster ride! There
are enough stories to fill a book - maybe one day we should.
So, Tony, the trip to Arakainga was fabulous - a chance for
us to pay homage to your exceptional determination, through all kinds
of drama, to make a difference in the world. And to say thankyou for
the difference you've made to us.
Seven years since the story began, it's good to reflect. Arakainga is
in the Hokianga, the best friendships remain, and the journey
With all our love.
Megan and Mark
(visited 21 April 2002)