What is the true definition of a Kiwi community?
In my short time living in cities and even towns, being a part of a New Zealand community could simply be a nod and a wave to your neighbour as you walked down the drive.
In densely populated urban areas, there is little need to be an active member of your community. As our lives become more modern, our self-sufficiency grows, further separating us from the outside world.
It can be sad to be reminded of this sometimes. Being raised in the back blocks of Central Hawke's Bay, I was exposed to what I thought was a true blue Kiwi community.
In many ways it was. Farming families stuck together and supported local schools and businesses to ensure their rural way of life could continue.
But in saying that, we were only ever 15 minutes on sealed roads from the closest supermarket and only 30-odd minutes from the closest city.
So you can imagine my reaction when I made the 2-1/2 hour trip north from Whangārei to attend the Pawarenga united marae sports day on Tuesday.
For those unfortunate few who don't know, the annual sports event, held at Pakinga on the south side of the Whangape harbour, aims to raise funds for three North Hokianga marae settlements - Mōrehu, Ohaki and Taiao.
Sporting contests include wood chopping, volleyball, ironman and woman, and tug o' war, but was highlighted by a series of horse races along the beach as spectators watched mere metres from the action.
The event started as a race day run by Pawarenga's Catholic nuns in the 1930s. It stopped during World War II and again in the 1950s due to Māori migration to the cities.
Pawarenga gears up for biggest sports day of the year
The tradition was revived in 1982 by Gloria Herbert and the Pawarenga Community Trust.
First of all, the journey out to Pawarenga tells you almost everything you need to know about isolated communities in Northland.
The long, winding, gravel road takes you through stunning bush before emerging into the clearing at the water's edge. The landscape is stunning, with towering hills surrounding the small bay as the picturesque St Gabriel's church looks down on the rapidly increasing line of parked cars.
As soon as I got out of my car, signs of an incredibly tight-knit community greeted me in every direction. The idea of walking through a crowd and not recognising someone was completely foreign there as many people could barely walk three paces without seeing a distant relative and rushing forward for a hug, kiss or hongi.
The sporting action itself was great and added to the sense of whānau and togetherness. To see people riding horses bareback along the beach while others stood just metres away was like being in a different century, long before the advent of fun-restricting red tape.
But what made this community unlike any I had ever experienced were the people.
Being a reporter in a foreign place can make you feel uneasy at the best of times, but it was astonishing the respect and generosity with which the people of Pawarenga treated me and virtually any one of the 1500 people who came out for the day.
At its core, community is about family and after Tuesday, I couldn't think of an event which valued whānau more.
Just like many rural settlements, Pawarenga has seen many generations of the same families work its land. Names like Proctor, Waipouri, Herbert and Hetaraka cover the church's cemetery.
While the event will raise much needed funds for the three local marae, the value of the day lies in its ability to reconnect whānau.
A prime example of this was when horse race organiser George Proctor reunited with cousin and primary school buddy, Dindin Harrison, a man Proctor hadn't seen in more than 40 years.
I'd hazard a guess not many events have the potential to reunite whānau like this, but such is the power of the Pawarenga sports day.
To see families such as the Leefs, who are based in Panguru, travel moe than three hours on horses from Mitimiti to Pawarenga - just as their ancestors have done for decades - shows just how important this event is for a community which couldn't survive without each other.
Even after hours in the sun and wind, whānau were still laughing and cheering each other on as the day's sporting schedule was finished with a fiercely competitive men's and women's tug o' war.
There was never any hint of dissent or arguing and after spending the day out there, I'm not surprised. To live more than an hour away from the nearest city which you might visit only once a month, making enemies would ensure such a community's demise.
At the end of the day, the Pawarenga annual sports day was a great reminder of how pure New Zealand communities can be. I know many around Northland will be the same and that's what makes this region more similar to the country's identity than almost any other.
It reinforces that nothing is more important than whānau and for this sports reporter, there is nothing more Kiwi than that.