When Ettie and Bill Deverall moved into their first house in the charming seaside village of Pukerua Bay, they were told it wouldn't be long before there was a decent road link to Wellington as there were plans for a highway through the hills behind their section.

That was in 1957 and when Ettie died this month, at the age of 96, 60 years later, one of her very few regrets was not living long enough to see that highway, Transmission Gully, completed.

It has been over half a century, but progress is at last being made, with construction underway.

Ettie took a great deal of interest in it, keeping newspaper clippings and photos detailing the work being done and, despite failing eyesight, on Sunday drives she would crane her neck to spot the huge earthmovers carving the yellow scar through the green countryside.


Her frustration over the procrastination with this project is understandable, given the huge changes she witnessed in other areas during her long life.

This was a woman who could remember Charles Kingsford Smith arriving in the first ever aeroplane to land in New Zealand.

While he arrived in Harihari on the West Coast, Ettie remembered him flying around New Zealand collecting money for his ventures.

She recounted how, as a six year old, she gathered with a crowd on 90 Mile Beach to watch in awe as Kingsford Smith offering joyrides for a fee to those who could afford it.

That did not include her family. Her father at that time was a "bushman" earning a living turning native bush into farmland and digging for, and selling, kauri gum.

The family lived in a three room house her father had built from trees he cut and hewed by hand.

The roof was made of closely laid and plated nikau palm fronds. Ettie said it never leaked but had to be replaced every couple of years.

At least her house in Pukerua Bay had a modern tin roof, and she had an electric stove, not a coal range, and not long after they moved in she also got her first refrigerator.

The house however was built with a traditional meat safe – a narrow floor to ceiling cupboard with a hole in the floor and another in the roof, both covered in mesh to keep the flies out but the air through.

The resulting draught meant you could keep meat for at least three days before it went off.

Another mod con was the telephone. However this was a party line with four other houses sharing. Ettie was convinced the neighbours were all listening in on her conversations, and she was probably right.

Ettie and family at the Charles Fleming Retirement Village in January last year to celebrate her 95th birthday.
Ettie and family at the Charles Fleming Retirement Village in January last year to celebrate her 95th birthday.

Ettie never left New Zealand until she was almost 60, but then her first big OE was the Trans-Siberian railway when Russia was still behind the iron curtain and it was no luxury tourist trip.

Other adventures included a 72 hour Greyhound bus trip from the East to West coasts of the USA, and wading across a flooded bridge in Brunei as snakes swam past.

This woman, who grew up in the days before homes had electricity and running water, before television, microwaves, cellphones and the internet, could not understand why Transmission Gully had taken so long and, in the last weeks of her life, lamented the fact she would never get to travel it.

Henrietta [Ettie] Marion Deverall – born 23 January 1922, died 5 April 2018

- written by Ettie's daughter Lesley Deverall