A piano once played by Patea's famous son Dalvanius Prime is attracting a new generation of talent in the town.

The 100-year-old piano, donated to the community by Mark and Geraldine Nicholas has been decorated by local artists and spends its days outside the Four Square store where local children are flocking to play on it during the school holidays.

Real estate agent Nicholas has a long history with South Taranaki having been a Hawera police officer and bar owner as well as playing Santa in the town's Christmas parades.

"I wanted to do something nice for Patea because the needs of the town are largely ignored by the council," he said.


"Hawera has a community piano and I thought Patea should have one too."

The Nicholas family bought the piano in Christchurch in the 1980s and moved it to Hawera where it was installed at their former establishment Bentley's Bar & Cafe.

"Hawera held a milk festival during the 90s and it was a bit of a flop.

"We put hay bales out front and Mike King was doing his stand-up comedy in the bar but the small crowd just weren't getting into it.

"Dalvanius started playing the piano one-handed and said 'I'll bloody show you how to rark this thing up' and he did."

He would give an impromptu performance whenever he visited the bar and Nicholas said it is very appropriate that the piano now belongs to Prime's hometown.

Prime, who died in 2002 made the town world-famous when he collaborated with Ngoingoi Pēwhairangi to write Poi E and recorded it with the Patea Māori Club in 1984.

Tearepa Kahi's 2016 movie Poi E: The story of our song renewed interest in the number one hit and introduced it to a new generation.


The piano has been beautifully restored and painted by Gallery Patea artists Mareta Marsters-Grubner, Dora Baker, Bronwyn Wattrus, Jenni Corbett and Gabrielle Belz.

A group of Patea artists collaborated to restore and paint the community street piano.
A group of Patea artists collaborated to restore and paint the community street piano.

"It took us a few months," said Belz.

"We all had a lot of other things going on so we would each work on our designated parts of the design when we had the time.

"Even while it was in the gallery, people liked to come in and play it."

A custom made trolley provided by Kakaramea company Hooper Engineering, enables the piano to reside in front of the Four Square and staff wheel it inside the store at night.

The Patea Community Board has taken responsibility for having the piano professionally tuned and will ensure that the pitch is checked regularly.

Belz said she enjoys hearing it being played when she is at the gallery.

"Even if someone is just plonking out a version of Chopsticks, it sounds good.

"Everyone used to have pianos in their homes where families would gather around them and now we have one that brings the community together in the street."