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Katikati Haiku Pathway    

                                                                                          Picture: Selwyn Mair. The Uretara Stream runs through the Haiku Pathway.

The pathway was officially opened in June 2000,  with 24 engraved river boulders, as one of New Zealand's Millennium Projects (its specially designed footbridge was dedicated as the sun rose on January 1, 2000). It is the largest such pathway in the Southern Hemisphere, and the largest collection of "haiku stones" outside Japan.

The driving force behind it is Catherine Mair, a well-known haiku poet and former editor of winterSPIN (now Kokako), who has long links with Katikati. She was born in the homestead on her grandparents' farm, spent many happy childhood holidays there, married at the homestead and later owned the farm with her husband, Selwyn. When the hard decision came to sell the land, Catherine convinced the developer that part of what was to become a housing subdivision should form a haiku pathway.

Her vision coincided with a drive to reclaim the Uretara Stream for the town. The river had been a vital link between settlers and the outside world in the 1870s, but 120 years later the land around the river as it passed behind the main commercial area was a wasteland.

The pathway runs either side of the Uretara Stream and links the town's centre with the Highfields subdivision via the footbridge. The pathway has already been extended once and plans are to extend it further. The park-like setting, which includes trees, seats, and picnic tables, is also a popular venue for one of the town's annual Summer Twilight Concerts.

                                                       

Picture: Selwyn Mair. Placing a boulder before engraving ...              ... with a haiku by Shirley May (NZ).
                                                                                                                            Picture: Sandra Simpson

"It's a bit improbable, isn't it?," Catherine says of the decision to create the pathway. "A country town that had never heard of haiku - but it was the right people at the right time. Even the blokes on the big machines moving the rocks into place got caught up in the magic of it, and the original engraver turned down a lucrative contract so he could finish his work here."

Winning haiku from the biennial Katikati Have-a-Go Haiku Contest have been engraved on flagstones and set into the pathway as a means of involving the community, including children, without compromising the quality of the boulder poems.

Each of the boulder poems has been carefully selected to reflect its surroundings - one boulder was placed in the stream in the happy expectation that it would be covered by water during floods and left high and dry in the summer. It was inundated by floodwaters twice within a year and had to be dug out both times after being almost covered by sand. "That will teach me to be careful what I say," Catherine laughs.

She hopes the pathway is a constant voyage of discovery, and that visitors find new dimensions each time they're there, depending on the hour, the weather, the season.

The pathway forms only one of the many artworks in this self-proclaimed Mural Town. The involvement of the Katikati Open-Air Art umbrella group was vital in the early days of the pathway, while the goodwill and support of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council has also been invaluable.

Catherine is now chairwoman of the Katikati Haiku Pathway Focus Committee, which until early 2007 was chaired by the late Ted Harris. It was Ted, who was a councillor at the time, to whom Catherine turned for help in turning her dream into a reality.

Another three haiku boulders were engraved in mid-2007, while a new entry sign, which features a haiku engraved on a metal plaque, was added in late 2008, bringing the total number of pathway project haiku to 31. The three boulders at The Landing, the site of the jetty where the town's first Ulster Irish stepped foot in their new home, were, in 2010, joined by nine new poem boulders, with one poem engraved on to an existing boulder on the main pathway.

                                                  

Pictures: Sandra Simpson. Blessing of new boulders in July 2007.

The 10 Boulders for 10 Years project culminated in a birthday party event in Katikati on June 6, 2010 to mark the 10th anniversary of the pathway's official opening. To read more about that event and the project, go here. Western Bay of Plenty District Council had a birthday surprise in store - giving us an 11th boulder for a poem!

Meanwhile, in 2005 Katikati Rotary donated a model logging dam as a water feature to both mark the centenary of Rotary International and the area's milling history, and asked Catherine to help choose a haiku from those submitted by local writers as part of the installation. The park featuring this model sits on the other side of the main road, opposite the main entry to the pathway.

                                                                                     

Pictures: Sandra Simpson. The Haiku Pathway footbridge.                              Haiku by Jim Kacian (US).
    

                                           To read about the pathway's 10th birthday celebrations, go here.
                                           To see Katikati's murals and to learn more about the town, go here.  
                                           To find out more about haiku stones in Japan, go here.
                                           To read an interview with Catherine Mair on the pathway's beginnings, go here.

Katikati Haiku Contest results:

2008 l 201020122014