A little house in Whanganui's Tregenna St has hosted a former Governor-General, members of the Quin Tikis, Miss New Zealand contestants and countless fishing parties.

Kathy Tahau has lived there since she and husband Ngakoata built it in the 1950s. She was brought up on a backblocks farm and came to Whanganui to work for a meat packing business.

The couple and their young daughter lived in a caravan at Castlecliff's campground while they were saving the £200 to get the house started. When it was just a shell a busload of friends and relatives from Ratana Pa came to see it.

"A whole busload came here, and blessed the place. That's why we treasure it. A whole busload of Māoridom had gone right through before the house was built," she said.


The Tahaus moved in when daughter Barbara was 4. They had no furniture. Kathy took her daughter and went to work for her uncle Buster Tauri's shearing gang as a cook, to earn money.

Ngakoata had been brought up at Castlecliff and worked first for the Imlay Affco meatworks, then on the dredge at the port. Later he used to cycle across town to the railway workshops in Whanganui East.

The two were both keen fishers, and belonged to a number of clubs. They used raffles to raise funds to take children to fishing competitions in other towns.

The children would buy fish and chips or icecream on the way home and finish up asleep on the Tahaus' floor, until their parents came to pick them up. Those children, now grown up, still come to visit Kathy.

The Tahau backyard has hosted many a hangi.
The Tahau backyard has hosted many a hangi.

"The boys still come here. Their children all call me Nan. If they get any fish they come and share it with me."

After presentations club members would go to the Tahau home for a drink in the shed. There was no bad behaviour.

"They were all fishermen, all family."

The clubs raised a loan from Whanganui's council, and built the fishing platforms at North Mole. Kathy cleared the boxthorn around them, levelled the ground and planted the gardens.

She started the Take a Kid Fishing project, and took an interest in the youth hostel that was across the street at that time.

"Nan used to always go over and feed them and make sure they were okay," granddaughter Cheryl Puohotaua says.

Many children went through Kathy and Ngakoata's house. One of them was former Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae, who lived there at times. He's now New Zealand's High Commissioner in London, and he gave away Kathy's daughter when she got married.

"He still rings me when he's in Auckland," Kathy said.

Her house became a venue for many a party and gathering. When her nephew Sam Mateparae toured with the Quin Tikis show band, they did a show in Whanganui's opera house with Howard Morrison in 1963.

 Ngakoata Tahau (left) and Allan Low build the party shed in the Tahau backyard.
Ngakoata Tahau (left) and Allan Low build the party shed in the Tahau backyard.

Morrison invited everyone back to the Tahau house for a hāngi afterward. He supplied the food and Kathy cooked it. The Quin Tikis were touring with a Miss New Zealand entourage and they all got off a bus and crowded onto the section.

Kathy's 10-year-old daughter got to look after Eddie Low's new baby.

"They were having a ball in here," Kathy said.

Other parties happened when her nephews wanted to host their country and western band friends. And when her uncle's crew aboard HMNZS Lachlan was docked in Whanganui he asked Kathy to host them.

Ngakoata died in 1995 but Kathy is still a busy person. She's a Rātana awhina (sister), a bowler and a weaver. The shed out the back is now her weaving place and she's made korowai for family and for Ihupuku, Waipapa, Kaipo and Waverley marae.