Two women, one from Hastings and the other Kyabram, Australia have shared a unique friendship for 71 years, but only via pen and paper.

Now, Joyce Harding and Nita Martin, pen friends in their 80s, have met for the first time in Hawke's Bay.

Nita was 12 years old when she peered at a pen-friend list on her high school bulletin board and opted to write to someone in New Zealand.

Her recipient Joyce, 13 at the time, received a letter weeks later and their friendship began to blossom.


It's Nita's first visit to New Zealand and she is making it with her son and grandchildren.

The two women sat together at Harding's Hastings home, while Nita's son and grandchildren played on the lawn outside.

"I'm moaning about the heat and Nita is loving it, as it gets up to 40C where she is," Joyce laughed.

When the pair met last week, it was a feeling of ease and familiarity.

"We didn't cry, but it wasn't strange at all meeting up. It was just very easy and I feel like I've known her all my life. Well, I suppose I have," Nita said.

"We knew each other's history and it was just very relaxed, no struggle at all."

The pair reminisced about the letters they sent to one another when they were younger.

"I had red hair and freckles when I was younger and there used to be a comic in The Sun called 'Ginger Megs' so that's what Joyce used to call me. She'd always start the letters off with 'Dear Ginger Megs'."


They grew up, and both women got married and had children.

"We both have two boys and a girl," she laughed.

"When we were younger we wrote quite regularly, but as you get married and life gets busy you just get down to special occasions, which was always Christmas for us," Joyce said.

The two women have shrugged off the technology era, and stick to writing letters.

"We're of a kind that resists the technology. My son from England is coming out in March and is going to teach me to use my i-pad but I keep resisting. I'm pretty good at texting though," Joyce chuckled.

"My phone [landline] is going off soon, so I have to get myself a mobile phone," Nita said.

Meeting has not changed anything between the women and both say they will continue writing to each other until the day they die.

"It's just an absolute pleasure that we've been able to come together after all these years. I wrote Nita a poem and part of it read 'I'm a Kiwi through and through and she's an Aussie true blue,' but here we are standing together all because we wrote a letter," Joyce said.