Thursday was a special day for every one of the 21 people from eight countries who took the oath or affirmation of allegiance to officially become New Zealand citizens at a ceremony at Te Ahu in Kaitaia.

It was particularly special, however, for 91-year-old Setsuko Edwards, who became the oldest person to be granted New Zealand citizenship.

Mrs Setsuko, who lives at Cooper's Beach, had experienced some "pretty horrific events," Mayor John Carter said, quoting her family lawyer, including the atomic bombing of Hiroshima in 1945, when she was a schoolgirl working in a munitions factory on the outskirts of the city.

Mrs Edwards was born and raised in Kure, near Hiroshima, but has spent most of her life in Doubtless Bay, as part of a longstanding family. Her husband Ormand, 95, was born at Mangonui Hospital, the great-grandson of William Edwards, who worked at Ōruru as a farrier, having arrived in New Zealand from England via Canada and the United States.


Mr Edwards' grandfather, Jefferson Davis Edwards (named for the US president), was born in the US, initially settling at Victoria Valley, where the family cleared native bush to establish a large farm (Edwards' Gully). Ormand Edwards' father Arthur was born there.

Mr Edwards spent much of his working life as a builder, including with Kaitaia firm Worth and Webe. His projects included the Far North Community Centre in Kaitaia, now part of Te Ahu. He also spent time in the Army, including service with J Force, where he met his future wife, followed by 12 months in Korea as a member of the Australian Army.

He and a cousin built the home in which they still live at Cooper's Beach in 1966, at a time when obtaining finance wasn't easy since the slopes above State Highway were covered in scrub and gorse.

"It was a bit of a wilderness," he said. He had milled the timber himself.

First they built a shed, which the couple called home until the house was completed, and which is still standing, now used by the neighbours. And while he wasn't sure about how much the house had cost to build, it was significantly less than the concrete driveway that he laid many years later.

Ormand and Setsuko met in Japan in 1951, and were married at St Saviour's Anglican Church in Kaitaia on September 28, 1957. Mrs Edwards had been back to Japan many times over the intervening years, in part to help care for her parents, but with no family remaining there she no longer does so. And, after more than 60 years of married life, she decided that now was the time to apply for citizenship.

"We decided that we might as well get it done now," Mr Edwards said, his wife adding that she had always been happy at Cooper's Beach.

"The air is clean and the people are very kind and friendly," she said.


A pirate in the family — page 10.