JONATHAN DOW
The sun was shining in Pukehou on Thursday, and at Te Aute College some things have never changed.
Prefects are lounging on the grass of the quad - where only they are allowed to venture - and at 8 that morning the boys assembled on the sides of the quad for their drills before marching to chapel.
Head prefects Troy Kapea and Luke Classen, both 18, know this is how things have always been done and are happy to keep it this way.
Last year Te Aute celebrated its 150-year anniversary and now there is Te Aute College Koiri, a book celebrating 150 years of achievement.
Today school is school and the demands of NCEA, 1st XV rugby, kapa haka and taking charge of a hostel full of boys are everyday ones.
You can forget the history, Luke said "but it's always there".
Some of Troy's mates at home in Gisborne might shrug their shoulders at Te Aute, but mention 2001 head boy and current All Black halfback Piri Weepu and they are impressed.
But the older generation know. His Nan shed tears of pride when he told her he would be going to Te Aute - "Apirana's old school".
In the meeting house at Te Aute a picture of Sir Apirana shares the top level with Peter Te Rangi Hiroa Buck, Maui Pomare, James Carroll and John Bennet, all knights of the realm.
The Right Rev Manuhuia Bennet, Sir Charles Bennett and Second Lieutenant Moananui-a-Kiwa Ngarimu VC are on the next level down.
As far as illustrious Old Boys go, it doesn't get any better than this.
Troy and Luke will be sad to leave their home of the past five years. But they are looking forward to heading to university in Otago and Waikato next year. That "everybody always says their time at Te Aute was the best" is hard to comprehend when you see what some of the pupils went on to do.
Koiri mentions the "dark days of the early 70s" when the college faced closure and what its future is. Last year's lectures by Professors Piri Sciascia, Whatarangi Winiata, Mason Drurie and Dr Pita Sharples are outlined.
Joe Northover was at Te Aute from 1942-1944 when the red brick hall block stood where there is now the meeting house. For a boy from Waiphiro Bay on the East Coast, Te Aute was "the inspiration to my aspirations ... the highlight of my life," he wrote for one of 17 tributes in Koiri.
Now Mr Northover, a minister of the Ringatu faith, a member of the Waitangi Tribunal and respected leader and adviser, he is one who was sad to see the colonial buildings go. For him "the mauri, the spiritual lifeforce" he used to marvel when he travelled past the school, is gone. But things had changed even by the time his younger brothers attended the school.
The headmaster at Te Aute in Joe Northover's time was E G Loten, who "either inspired you, or ruled you with an iron fist".
This was six years before Sir Apirana Ngata died in 1950.
"But Ngata was not even mentioned," Mr Northover said this week. "We had to follow in his footsteps, but the school did not drill it into us.
"We were taught the school curriculum - not Apirana Ngata. He was the product.
"Learn what they learnt", was the message.
"We were taught discipline and it became self-discipline. Things were very strict. In everything you did you had to be effective, efficient and articulate."
He can't explain it, but "Te Aute overtook you, overpowered you."
Koiri is the name of the book and of the symbol (see graphic) that represents the concept behind the book: "A return to one's roots in order to progress confidently into the future.
"The book is not a history, or a documentary - it seeks to capture and convey the spirit of the college," editor John Wehipeihana said.
On Sunday when Koiri is welcomed to the college Troy, the guitar player, may well lead the song Te Rangi Huata composed when he was head prefect in the early 70s: "Quit ye like men be strong/We shall never die."