One year on from Porirua's siege: A love story to the city that took me in

Reporter Virginia Fallon.
FAIRFAX NZ

Reporter Virginia Fallon.

One year ago I was a cub reporter, 11 days into the job, and the first at the Waitangirua siege.

Fresh out of journalism school, I was sent to Porirua for eight weeks, and, in less than a fortnight, I was in the thick of one of the year's biggest stories.

Still here one year on, I revisited some of the people I met during the siege and it was like meeting old friends.

Helen Feo with her baby niece Alpha Feo, 3 months old, spent the night at the marae after they had to leave their home.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX

Helen Feo with her baby niece Alpha Feo, 3 months old, spent the night at the marae after they had to leave their home.

Greeting Pania Houkamau-Ngaheu was like coming home. A long hug, not a handshake, started our second interview.

READ MORE:
Porirua siege: Outlawed, outnumbered
* Tales from the front line
* Sun sets on armed stand
* Te Kira family apologise for siege

 
The house where Pita Te Kira died was blessed by kaumatua.
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

The house where Pita Te Kira died was blessed by kaumatua.

 

A year ago, at her marae, she told me I looked tired. The previous day I had lasted nearly 13 hours within the Kokiri Cres cordon and I was spent and sad.

I was there when Paul Basham​ announced Pita Te Kira was dead. I saw the people, who had been driven from their homes, mourn him.

Te Kira's body is removed from the house.
ROSS GIBLIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Te Kira's body is removed from the house.

I saw tears from police officer Mike Tahere.

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On Friday, within the cordon, Matua Pusa​ Finau let me into his house to charge my phone and for 8 hours I based myself in his living room. His wife made me lunch and, as the cold crept in, his daughter gave me a sweatshirt.

She boosted me over a fence to get closer to the house. I had given up smoking a year previously but we shared a cigarette in the dark.

Pania Houkamau-Ngaheu who opened the marae to shelter Porirua people.
STEVEN TRASK/FAIRFAX NZ

Pania Houkamau-Ngaheu who opened the marae to shelter Porirua people.

It wasn't unusual. The people welcomed us all in. A Dominion Post photographer was granted full access to a private home and only told to lock the door as he left.

On the Sunday, two days after he made his stand, I saw Pita's body being taken from the house. It seemed such a small body to have caused such big trouble.

One year ago, I fell in love with Porirua City. For its people and the way they took me in and let me tell their stories of the siege.

Maatua Pusa Finau and his family sheltered a reporter during the siege.
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Maatua Pusa Finau and his family sheltered a reporter during the siege.

One year on, I just hope I told them well.

He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tangata, he tangata, he tangata.

What is the most important thing in the world? It is the people, it is the people, it is the people.

 - Stuff

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