Twelve Questions
Jennifer Dann poses 12 questions to well-known faces

Twelve Questions with Markoni Tonga, the K' Rd cleaner

When Markoni Tonga was growing up in Tonga, he had one ambition - to be a good man. Photo / Greg Bowker
When Markoni Tonga was growing up in Tonga, he had one ambition - to be a good man. Photo / Greg Bowker

Karangahape Rd is arguably New Zealand's most famous street. It is chaotic, colourful and, thanks to Markoni Tonga, clean. Markoni - or Marko as he's known - is the star of K' Road. He works the day shift, from 7am till 4.30pm, every day except Sundays. Now aged 63, Markoni has walked this beat for 10 years.

What do you like about this job?

I get exercise every day and it gives me money for my family. We live in Mt Roskill. Every day, my son brings me here to work. I have four children. I also keep the people happy along here.

How long have you been a cleaner?

Always. All my life. I do cleaning in buildings too, but I like this street. People miss me when I take a holiday. They say, "Marko, Marko. Where is Marko? Bring him back."

What's the hardest thing about your job?

Bad people sometimes do bad things.

Like what?

Like pissing in the gutter and spitting. I tell them to stop and they listen. They go.

What did you want to be when you were a young boy in Tonga?

Just to be a good man.

What do you do when you're not here? What do you do when you get home?

Gardening. I have a garden full of flowers. Also vegetables and tomatoes. Also I help my wife. I like to watch rugby on the TV. I love my family. I have four grandchildren. I bought them a basketball the other day from a shop just down there, for $25.

What's your favourite place to eat on K' Road?

I like the Hare Krishna place. I like the food. It's curry and vegetables and it's only $5. Very good. I eat meat at home.

Have you ever been back to Tonga?

No, never. I'd like to sometime, but all the family are here. I have no one left over there. I am the last child in our family. I have my children. They are Siokini, Niutoni, Rachel and Siosaia.

What's the greatest change you've seen in K' Road in 10 years?

Oh, everything has changed. The buildings. The street. It looks good. It used to be a bit rough. It looks fresh now. We have recycling bins. It's very good.

What's the hardest thing about the job?

Autumn, when the leaves start to fall. I don't really get cold. I have a warm jacket and I walk so much.

What vices do you have?

I smoke. Don't really drink. Maybe one or two beers at home.

Do you get to stop and talk to people during the day?

Oh, many. With the business people here who own the shops. They look after me. And the tourists. They ask for directions to places in Auckland and I tell them. I know many streets and places.

- NZ Herald

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