A small tree sits peacefully at the site where Flaxmere man Kelly Donner died earlier this year.

One flower has already blossomed on the small Michelia which sits next to a pou, placed by City Assist.

A Māori flag, roses and candles are placed next to it, in memory of Donner.

He was found dead on the green outside the Flax Bar and Eatery in Swansea Rd, next to the Flaxmere Village Shopping Centre, on March 4.


Four teenagers, three males and one female appeared in Youth Court, with a fifth arrest made in April.

Flaxmere kaumātua Moewaka Hinepare said the people of Flaxmere were unsettled by what had happened and wanted to do something to put the community at ease.

"This situation has not been liked by anyone, it's been frightening for some people here, especially for the people at the hotel and our elders," she said.

Hastings District Council, the Flaxmere Trust, and Community Centre management held a meeting and concluded that the planting of a tree would be best suited for the site.

Hinepare's nephew, Thompson Hokianga, said a tree would enhance the healing process in the Flaxmere community as well as for the families involved.

"I think the planting of this tree will embellish the healing and the re-growth of the site, it was also to help the patrons of the tavern feel more at ease spiritually and culturally in that something has been done - rather than it be cast aside."

Although the community had felt uneasy since Donner's death, Hokianga said the incident had brought people closer together.

Kelly Alex Donner. Photo / File
Kelly Alex Donner. Photo / File

"Our community was rattled to say the least, but by the same token, it's got our community talking about how we can heal the imbalances around this instance.

"It's brought a lot more communication among our people and those who help walk our community through some challenging spaces."

Hokianga said the area where the incident occurred was very central to many Flaxmere residents and he wanted emphasise the feeling of calm as people walked near the site.

"We get a lot of foot traffic here, we've got the community hall, the pools and the library, so the planting of the tree wasn't just for the aesthetics of the site, it was also to put the community at ease."

Kaumātua worked closely with Donner's family in preparing the site for the tree planting.

"We had to get in there and turn the soil over, it was pouring down that morning, but we knew the elements had spoken, the rain flooded the site out so the land could start healing itself too.

"Once the grass started to grow up quite high, we knew the healing of the site had begun and that was the environmental cue for us to get moving.

"It was important that the planting happened on Matariki, which serves many purposes of celebration, with one of those being remembering those who reside among the veil or have recently passed and not to let the lessons they left behind go in vain," Hokianga said.