Zita Smith celebrates her birthday at Lanarch Castle in Dunedin.
Enjoying a birthday dinner are (from left) niece Ria Anderson, Zita Smith and her eldest daughter Vannessa Chmielewska.
by Brenda Vowden
Zita Smith is not one to do things by halves.
In fact, as her 70th birthday loomed, she set her sights high — on Buckingham Palace no less. Unfortunately, Covid scuttled her plans, but with the help of her niece Ria Anderson, Zita still managed to celebrate in style.
Although not a palace, Dunedin's Lanarch Castle was the next best thing and became Zita's birthday destination of choice.
"We stayed within a three minute walk and walked through the gardens to the castle. It was absolutely stunning," Zita says.
Little did she know, the fun had only just begun. During the third course of dinner, their 'butler' walked in and informed Zita and Ria they needed to go outside.
"Our hearts dropped. We thought something was wrong — it was terrible."
The pair was escorted out into the passage and then told to turn around.
"Out jumped my daughter and grandchildren. It was such a surprise."
Another highlight of the weekend was getting to the top of the famous Baldwin St.
"I have arthritis so couldn't walk up. My daughter and grandchildren walked while we drove up the first time laughing and bunnyhopping."
The family group also fulfilled another birthday wish and took a photo outside Six60's original flat at 660 Castle St. After spending a day exploring Dunedin and the castle inside, Zita spotted a cabinet housing pounamu taonga and felt it looked a little lonely.
"I asked if we could pick some flax from the garden and make some putiputi to sit with the pounamu. We had busloads of people watching us weaving. We were asked to make more for a Mother's Day gift. They will be blessed having putiputi in there.
"It was an amazing weekend. We had a fantastic time — just beautiful."
Zita is the recipient of the Napier Civic Award, the Pilot City Award and a police taonga appreciation award for making and gifting the police a korowai.
She is a well known face around Napier, and although now retired after spending 27 years as a security officer with The Warehouse and as a long serving Māori warden, there are few signs of her slowing down. Zita is now a volunteer at the Napier Police Station and warden at the Napier Court.