Maori and Croat join in festivities

00:26, Mar 20 2009
FAMILY MATTERS: Melba Wellington with brothers Andy, left, and George Stankovich, in the cab of one of their trucks.

Music and family are just two of the things that brought Croatians and Maori together during the early 1900s. And little has changed.

Andy Stankovich is well-known for performing Elvis tunes around the region and co-owns a scrapmetal yard with his brother George. The pair also provide employment for their sons, nephews and a sister.

The Stankovichs are of Maori and Croatian descent and are proud to be known as Tarara – the name originally given to people with both bloodlines in their heritage.

They’ll be joining others of similar ancestry at the third Tarara Day this Sunday from 10am to 4pm at Birdwood Winery Estate in Massey.

Andy’s grandfather emigrated from Vrgorac, Croatia, to Auckland in 1920 as a 20-year-old.

He went north to Ahipara to work in the gum fields and it was there he met his future wife, Hiria Pene.

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Andy says his grandmother was a full-blooded Maori and his grandfather had more in common with her Te Rarawa people than English settlers.

"Maori and Croatian all get on very well," he says. "They have a similar way of looking at life and relationships."

His mother is also half Maori and half Croatian.

Andy’s sister, Melba Wellington, is part of the organising committee for the event.

She says one of her dreams is to visit relatives in Europe.

"I’d love to go there. Other relatives have been and it’s supposed to be very picturesque. It’s also a very old country compared with our very new country."

Another common thread is an appreciation of good food and music.

Melba says people will be able to get a combination of hangi and lamb on a spit this Sunday.

Andy will also be entertaining the crowd with his Elvis songs.

He thinks his musical abilities are a combination of both sides of his heritage.

"People love the voice, but exactly where it comes from – I don’t know."

Tarara Day is open to everyone.

Western Leader