Local walks; Katikati's Haiku Pathway and Papamoa Hills Regional Park

Local walks; Katikati's Haiku Pathway and Papamoa Hills Regional Park

Katikati’s Haiku Pathway

The town’s poetic pathway, a peaceful trail that meanders alongside a stream, is unique in the Southern Hemisphere.
The ongoing project features 31 haiku ‘stones,’ river boulders inscribed with haiku, or short poems.  It has been described as an unlikely home for one of the finest haiku monuments outside Japan. The pathway – which began as one of New Zealand’s Millennium Projects – was officially opened in June 2000, with 24 engraved boulders, says . The trail runs along both sides of the Uretara Stream behind the town’s main street. A footbridge links the two sides of the stream.

The pathway is popular with locals, as well as national and international visitors. And for motorists heading north, it’s a tranquil spot for a break from the road, surprisingly close to the heart of a bustling country town. The main entry is a sealed vehicle drive leading down to a carpark, found opposite Digglemann Park, on the southern edge of the main retail area. A pedestrian-only entry leads down steep steps behind the library, and another entry is opposite Twickenham Café, to the north of the town.

There are now also three engraved boulders at The Landing, a small reserve area on the corner of Beach Rd and the main road which marks the historic site where the area’s first European settlers came ashore (Katikati is the only planned Ulster Irish settlement in the world). The pathway’s haiku were selected by Katikati poet Catherine Mair. Her selection criteria were that poems must have already been published (and so had been through an editorial process), and that they reflected their surroundings.

Catherine sees the pathway as a voyage of discovery - each person interpreting the poems in their own way according to time and tide, season and weather. One engraved boulder sits in the stream in the ‘happy expectation’ that it will be covered by flood water at certain times, and left high and dry at others.

Haiku are ‘words which sing, words which paint pictures, small stories which expand each location, images which invite you to make up your own stories, poems which are the direct experience of a moment, tiny poems which are wonderfully large, ‘ she says.

Visitors shouldn’t expect to read poems that are all sombre and introspective: there are haiku such as ‘Over hot sand dunes, a family skips,’ and the evocative ‘Delicious! Taste of my new strawberry chapstick on his lips.’

The pathway is now administered by the Katikati Haiku Pathway Focus Committee which as well as working closely with Western Bay of Plenty District Council to maintain and improve it, also runs a biennial haiku contest, both as a fundraiser and to educate about haiku.

The pathway reserve is the venue for a large outdoor concert in January each year, and is used for other community activities and events. 'It’s a bit improbable, isn’t it?,' Catherine says of the pathway.  'A country town that had never heard of haiku – but it was the right people at the right time. ‘Even the blokes on the big machines who were placing the boulders so precisely for us got caught up in the magic of it.'

On June 6, Katikati celebrates the pathway’s 10th anniversary, with winners of the biennial haiku contest announced at a Japanese-themed in the community hall. Proceeds go towards extending the pathway.

A guidebook to the pathway, which contains all the poems, a map of their positions and biographical notes on the poets is available from Katikati Craft Shop, Katikati Information Centre and Books A Plenty in Grey St, Tauranga.

For further reading on Katikati Haiku Pathway, visit

Papamoa Hills Cultural Heritage Regional Park

Stunning views and the chance to stand on an ancient pa site where Maori warriors scanned the slopes for invaders…are two of the best reasons for hiking into the Papamoa Hills. On a clear day you can see the Mount and Tauranga to the west, far beyond the Te Puke area to the south-east and Mount Ngongotaha to the south. Mayor, Motiti and White islands also come into the picture.

Opened in 2004, and now owned by the Regional Council, the park is a unique mix of ancient pa sites, pockets of native forest and farm land. In total it covers 108 hectares.

The land was purchased from a local farming family, the Mc Naughtons, to provide for passive recreation – hikers and sightseers. (The area is off-limits to mountain-bikers, and dogs and fires are banned). The Mc Naughtons reportedly turned down a $4 million offer from developers to keep the area as a ‘people’s park.’

The walk to the summit takes around 45 minutes. The first part of the trail goes through a mature pine forest that has, in a curious contrast, tall native kawakawa growing underneath.  It’s easy going; the track has a smooth clay base spread with grit, and much of it is covered with soft pine needles.  

Over the first ridge, the ground drops away as the track heads down into a gully filled with native bush. Bellbirds and tui can be heard calling from the trees, and there are also native wood pigeon, or kereru in the area. 

The last part of the track is across farm paddocks, and a high, grassy plateau that leads up to the summit marked by a trig station – a former Maori pa site with commanding, spot-the-invaders views in all directions. This is one of seven historical pa sites that have been described as some of the most impressive in the region. Carbon-dated artefacts have shown occupation goes back to at least the 15th century.

According to local historians, the local tribes’ ancestors arrived from Hawaiki aboard two waka or canoes, Te Arawa and Takitimu, and settled in the Papamoa area, which became “strategic and coveted” with the arrival of Mataatua, a third canoe. Local Tauranga and Te Puke tribes now regard the area as He taonga tukuiho, a heritage treasure.   

You can wander freely throughout the park, but visitors are asked to stay inside the boundaries which are identified by white fence posts. Please try not to disturb grazing sheep and cattle.

The Papamoa park is easy to access via a short drive along State Highway 2 from Tauranga  towards Te Puke - to Popular Lane (look for the regional park signpost). The entrance is just 800 metres from the highway, with ample parking and toilets provided. A large signboard has lots of information on tracks, the parks history, etc. Brochures are also available from visitor centres, council offices, and the fruit and vegetable market in Poplar Lane. Lennard’s Orchard sells drinks and some quirky stuff – ostrich egg shells and emu oils!

For park inquiries, call 07-577 7000.

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