Eketahuna - a town too proud to die

Eketahuna aging, shrinking

Last updated 05:00 17/07/2014
 Joe Sweeney, left, and Charles Death
ROSS GIBLIN

DOWN, BUT NOT OUT: Joe Sweeney, left, and Charles Death insist there’s life in their town yet.

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Eketahuna is small and getting smaller - but residents are adamant it is not disappearing.

The rural settlement near the foot of the Tararua Range has lost its two banks, post office and schools. It has had to raise funds to rebuild its petrol station after a fire, and was forced to set up a trust to run its Four Square - the only place to buy groceries.

Of its 441 residents, nearly a quarter are over 65, far above the national average, and the population is slowly declining. It is one of dozens of towns that researchers are examining amid concern there will soon be a fresh wave of "ghost towns" - settlements abandoned as too small and old to maintain.

But resident Charles Death says, while his town has shrunk, it will not disappear. It still had a community constable and a medical centre.

"I think people here stick together," he says. "We've got a town upgrade coming up and they [the district council] wouldn't be doing that if they didn't think we could hold our own."

Death has lived in the town for all but two of his 57 years. People pitching in is what will keep the town going, he says. "There is a lot of pride in our town."

Joe Sweeney, 75, is also sure the town will still be there long after he is gone, pointing to its position on the highway and rail line. "At my age you don't have long to go, but I can never see Eketahuna dying."

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