History of Hawke's Bay's mysterious 'house on the hill' is revealed
For more than 80 years Hawke's Bay's 'house on the hill' has stood a silent sentinel for all those entering or leaving Hastings via State Highway 2.
The decrepit 1930s weatherboard house has survived countless storms since the final resident left in the late-1960s. It's windows went decades ago, it has barely any floor remaining, the wood that remains is riddled with borer and the disintegrating roofing irons are hanging on with slivers of rusty nails.
Yet against all odds it still stands.
Situated atop a small rise to the east of the highway, where it dips gently to the Heretaunga plains, the small two-bedroom house is a landmark for all who live in Hawke's Bay.
For Harvey Karaitiana it's more than that. For Harvey and his 11 siblings and parents it was their home.
In early December Harvey, 76, revisited the house and recounted some of his memories. He lived in the house from the age of five to 10, before the family moved to Rotorua in about 1952.
The house had actually been built for Jack and Martha Ngawiki (nee Karaitiana), but for reasons lost to history they never lived there. After it sat vacant for about five years the Karaitiana whanau, who had been living in a smaller house nearby, moved in.
"We never got to meet Jack and Martha, but our parents did. According to my older brother Nick the house was without electricity when we moved in so to make life a bit more bearable we had power connected. There were no flush toilets back in those days, just a long drop you had to walk to out the back," Harvey said.
Getting to school required a four kilometre walk each way to Poukawa. Harvey was tasked with making an extra two kilometre round-trip walk each day to the store for bread.
"We'd make that walk every day along the highway; short pants, bare feet, in scorching sun or freezing winters," he said.
He remembered when the highway was first sealed. Harvey and his brother Ivan walked through the warm, sticky tar. Their mother went wild when she saw their black feet in their beds.
"There were very few cars back then and I distinctly remember our headmaster Mr McKelvie passing us on his way to Hastings one day," Harvey said.
His father Tawhiwhi worked on a farm across the nearby Te Mahanga Stream and his mother Ira Te Rauhina worked in orchards, and both would work together in shearing sheds at another farm nearby.
His mum was an avid gardener and the paddock between the house and the highway was once filled with fruit trees and rows of vegetables.
"We had every vegetable imaginable. I can remember being told to go to the bottom of the garden to pick watermelons. There were fowls, chickens and ducks running loose in the backyard. We had a cow for milking and the stream was like our Pak'nSave, alive with eels and fish. Now it's a trickle of what it was back then," he said.
"Both my parents were hard workers and practically lived off the land, like many did back then. It's difficult to comprehend those post-depression days now. They were never ones to complain and just took things as they came.
"When we go back today, I often wonder how our parents fed us and cared for us in this little place, all 11 of us. We were a tough bunch brought up in tough times. Sad to say the generation of today is no match."
Harvey said the 110 square metre house was in good order when the family moved out. He believed it remained vacant for years after they left before another family moved in in the early 1960s. They left in 1969 and the house has been left to the elements and Hawke's Bay residents and visitors to the region have witnessed its slow deterioration over the decades ever since.
Harvey has made regular return visits to the place and for a while he and his brothers pondered fixing it up, but "one thing and another" meant it never happened.
"What will happen to this broken down, iconic home that once served as our place of shelter? I guess it will ultimately meet its maker and slowly collapse to the ground. For me it will always be where we grew up and what formed part of what we are today," Harvey said.
The farm is now part of the Poukawa Research Farm, which is owned by the agricultural research company On-Farm Research.