Countless children have graduated to school from Kaitaia's Anne West Kindergarten over the last 60-odd years, but Paki Thomas' farewell last week was special.

He had the seat of honour as teacher Bonnie Anderson showed photos, chosen by Paki, relating to some of his kindergarten highlights (including a close encounter with eels at Takahue, trips to the beach and the movies, a party day and making things with clay) to the other children, before he blew out the five candles on a (fake) birthday cake, which Ms Anderson said had featured at many a previous graduation.

The special bit came at the end, courtesy of Paki's mum, Nadia Thomas, and his big sisters Stevie and Myah, both of whom also attended Anne West.

He was taken out of the room briefly then reappeared wearing a korowai Mrs Thomas had painstakingly made over the previous eight months, which she gifted to the kindergarten for use by children when they turn five in years to come.


Mrs Thomas, who shed a tear or two, said she wanted to express her gratitude to the kindergarten that had done so much for her and her children.

"It's not just childcare, it's a whole other family," she said.

This was the third korowai she had made, but was much more detailed than the others.

The children were certainly impressed, most of them, along with the staff, gently stroking the feathers.

Paki, the last of Mrs Thomas' three children, will join his sisters at Kaitaia Primary School next term.