Urban Designer - Vernacular Architect - Maritime Planner - Owner-Builder - Servant of Piglet - Educator - Author - Revolutionary - Peacenik - Tour Guide 

Tony Watkins

 ~ Vernacular Design 

Year by year Print E-mail

“The house that Piglet built” year by year.



Piglet returned from Karaka Bay to the Hokianga and took up residence at the Tree House on New Years Day 1999. A few days later I erected the first tarpaulin shelter at Te Ohu. The Panguru flood promptly followed. In February Grunt went north for the first time, with a load of basalt. It was only possible to get as far as the slip blocking the 4WD access. In March I began moving panels from the barn up as far as the slip, only days before the barn was demolished. Draining the swamp with culverts and clearing the slip made it possible to get up as far as a new turning circle for Grunt. Serious building began, with a desperate race against the weather which was closing in for winter. In April I took a Metropolitan rental truck north with more basalt and took the basalt on up the hill with Grunt.  I continued building right through to the end of May until the basic structure was up and closed in. The conservatory came much later. In June twenty bales of hay from Ross formed a straw bale winter shelter for Piglet and I drove Grunt back to Auckland. After a trip to Canada with Clive the last half of the year was devoted to tying up loose ends.

The year began with a 7-10 January trip around East Cape with Alastair Muir and James. Then I built Kiyomizu at Karaka Bay, taking it through to the point where it was clad in Coloursteel and closed in. Meanwhile in the Hokianga moving in a double mattress from the Tree House up to Arakainga in late January made it possible to sleep comfortably in the house, and slowly other luxuries changed a building site into a home. In March Grunt took a water tank north, and having a supply of water made an enormous difference. Grunt also brought in enough polycarbonate roofing from Kaikohe to build the conservatory. Through the winter Piglet’s Palace was extended to three modules. In July another 20 bales of hay from Ross changed her home into a straw bale house. I then brought Grunt back to Papatoetoe. In November I moved Piglet’s eco-house off the Level 6 roof and took it to the Tree House on a Metropolitan truck, along with the solar panels and batteries. To make up a load I took up a second pallet of brick and stored it with James, along with the first, until I could move them up to the house with Grunt.

During all this summer I was also building Kiyomizu at Karaka Bay.

Bob Waretini died on 21 January 2001. His pig Bacon was the mother of Piglet. Eugene and Mutsumi came to visit in January, as did Helen Sanderson. In March Grunt took a full pallet of bricks all the way up. Moved the other two pallets up from James. Helped the Dutch kauri researchers, but that was a complete waste of time. At Easter we shared in a ceilidh as well as the Easter ceremonies. In April I acted as a tour guide for a St. Peter’s College group, based at Mitimiti. In June I brought Pauline down to catch the plane to Australia and in July I took her back up again. In July Kate Bartlett and Rod came up to see Margaret’s drawing. The District Plan hearings on Heritage were also in July.  It was September before I brought Grunt back to Papatoetoe, but she threw a piston at Waimamaku. Cut and arrised timber for the conservatory walls and roof and carried all that up to make up the frames on site. By the end of the year the conservatory was more or less closed in. I was able to take down the last tarpaulin. In December I took Margaret and Peter Bartlett up to the house. Erika also visited. Through the year I helped with locating Pompallier’s grave, and in December we farewelled the Hikoi to Rome, Lyon and Paris to bring him back. We celebrated Christmas in the Hokianga, returning to Karaka Bay only just in time to celebrate the New Year and Liam’s birthday.

Celebrated the New Year at Te Ohu after staying on in the house from Christmas 2002. Took a pallet of Nubrick paving slabs up on Grunt in January. In February Mary and George had a combined 80th birthday. Moved ten ton or more of metal in from the Runaruna Quarry to upgrade the road from the gate up to Grunt’s carpark. “Piglet the Great” was printed by Brebners and I collected the first copies on 13 March.  Simone came up in March. At Easter Pompallier rose from his tomb and we blessed Wally Kenara’s new house. Robin, Liam and Caitlin Kearns, Rosemary and Peter Wakeman, and three students Scott, Daniel and Trine all visited. I spoke for the manuhiri at the Ceilidh powhiri. Clive brought a mobility scooter up for Rita’s 85th birthday and we all celebrated in Kaikohe on 8th June.  Laid the foundation and first course of brick for the fireplace, and by the end of the year the structure was almost complete. Ran the generator for the first time. An exciting trip back to Papatoetoe in Grunt in July as the clutch was frozen. Launched the Kohukohu Library with a meeting and by the end of the year the application went in to ASB Community Trusts. Went up to Whangarei to present evidence on the Hokianga Ferry for the Land Transport Strategy in August. Clea gave me information on the DoC kiwi recovery programme along with predator traps. Transported all Helen’s paintings up in September for an exhibition in the Boatshed Café. A big crowd of friends came to the opening in October.  Hugh Lusk then came on up to Arakainga. Helen Sanderson came up for the Ripeka Tapu 125th Anniversary. Another Hokianga Christmas.

I spent much of the year laying brick for the “Son of Justin” fireplace. In January Jim Morgan came north with me on a brief but exciting trip and stayed a night at Arakainga. We later went around the South Island. I went north in February with Anita McNaught and Olaf Wiig to photograph Piglet for the BBC World News. The WOF for Grunt was so late coming through that no trip was possible this year. I packed up the mortar I needed.  In April Lisa died on me in Kohukohu and I had to leave her in Kaikohe for repairs. I then hired a car to get home and went back up to pick her up. Rita died early on Monday 3 May 2004. The house was broken into for the first time in August. I arrived a day too late to find that  Kyrke and Ralph had been there the day before. There was damage but it could have been a lot worse. A quick trip up in September for the tangi of Tony Te Rore. Also in September Greg Blunden visited the land and approved it as suitable for a QEII Covenant and Terese Storey  photographed Piglet for her Elam project. Peter Vujcich died in October.  In November I took the three Brown sisters to the Waterfall Chapel and on North. Another Hokianga Christmas.

In January Anton and Simon came up to Arakainga and I also visited Aroha Island for the first time,  making good progress with Greg Blunden on the QEII Covenant. Maria Terarangi decided that she would give me her 100 acres instead of signing the revised QEII Covenant. Replaced my temporary ridging with Coloursteel ridging, and began adding manuka poles to my high roof to hold everything down. In April I drove Grunt north with the first load of brick for Justin’s shed. I drove her back to Papatoetoe in June. Hugh and Christine came up in April and we shared some of the Hokianga Film Festival including Hone Tuwhare in “The Return”. Moved a new set of solar batteries up to Arakainga. The Country and Western music festival was in September.  Poured the floor slab for Justin’s shed and laid the first courses of brick. Selected a grave site and built a picket fence around it.  Another Hokianga Christmas.

The year began by taking Grunt North with a second load of bricks for Justin’s shed. By the end of the year they had almost all been laid, with a final springing course of fired brick for the dome roof. Brought Grunt back to Papatoetoe in June.  Akio and Lorraine walked up to Arakainga in March and then Akio, Kazuko and Helen helped judge the “Slice of life” photographic competition.  Unveilings for Rita and Ihapera were at Easter. A new 6” foam mattress added a sense of luxury and a sheet of flat steel over the door made the house slightly more secure. I had a trip away to Tonga and another up to San Francisco and Vancouver for WUF3.  On 30 August I suffered a stroke and my life was brought to a halt. However Clive took me up for a trip in November and I was able to drive up myself to spend another Christmas in the Hokianga.

I made my first trip on my own since my stroke, but Grunt did not make it north this year. Laid the last half dozen Stevenson bricks. I still needed a few more to complete the entry arches. Cleaned up the chaos resulting from taking down my old shed and built a new shed on the SouthWest spur. The Hokianga Film Festival was in June. It was to be the last time I would see Barry Barclay before he died.  This was also my first trip north in Padrone. Helped host the ASB Community Trusts visit to the Hokianga at the end of September, and Brian and Mary then came on to Te Ohu. Phil celebrated his 60th birthday in October with a Bluegrass Band in the Old School. In November Piglet was very sick and I hesitated to head off to the South Island to leave her. We came from Bluff back to the Tree House after Claire phoned us and she seemed to perk up a little. Another Hokianga Christmas spending a lot of time with Piglet.

Piglet died on 11 January 2008. We buried her next to the house which I had begun building when she moved to the Tree House. In April I placed a bronze plaque on her grave. I began clearing Manuka from the South side of the house to reveal the beauty of the kauri. By this time all my original verandah posts needed replacing. In May I moved a 9kg LPG tank up to Arakainga. Without the presence of Piglet however nothing seemed to be quite the same. She had given me the energy to achieve the impossible and now I was on my own.  I allowed winter to close in around me. Spring would come but I knew that nothing was ever going to be quite the same again.

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