Hohepa Hawkes Bay – the Clive site

Front page news today in the Dom Post is Neil Kirton’s story about the Hohepa Hawkes Bay site at Clive – the site of the adult community (as opposed to the children’s community and the one Hohepa School at Poraiti). The good news is that the site’s vulnerability, accelerated already by climate change, is now being taken seriously, and it is intended that residents will no longer live or sleep there.

So that’s the good news, now made public. But – and there are several buts – did Neil not consult with anyone before going public? Comments are disabled for the article – probably a good thing. Firstly, we don’t talk about disabled people now. They are perhaps folk with “special needs”, who need a bit more care than the average person to look after themselves and be socially acceptable; but they have extraordinary abilities, many of which we look upon and admire. These folk are often very artistic – they do wonderful painting, weaving, sculpture, woodwork, crafts, and are usually very musical, often displaying extraordinary talent. They love to sing and dance. One of the great advantages of Hohepa is an acceptance of them, not wishing to “normalise” them.
They are not materialistic, not competitive, are very tolerant, and enjoy being alive. Most of the people involved in their care admire these residents and their tolerance and levels of enjoyment, while being able to cope with what are at times challenging behaviours.

Next, while the Clive site is termed a “haven”, which is the way many of us see it, there is no mention of anthroposophy in the story! It would have been anthroposophical, by the way, for Neil to have consulted before going public in this manner. Anthroposophy underpins the way things are done here – the philosophy of “curative education”, the wonderful organic food (before this became so important), the celebration of the changes in the seasons, and all aspects of natural beauty, and the “back to basics” principles of the rhythms of life.

The Hohepa community at Clive goes back a long way, to the gift of Sir Lew Harris, who, I gather, was largely responsible for Hohepa owning this beautiful site.

And it is a beautiful site: peaceful, rural, with large, gracious trees, lawns and gardens; places to walk – you can walk along the stop banks; the homes are great – each one a household, so that you get the feeling of being in a peaceful, well-regulated community, rather than an institution. The Hall has been a wonderful venue for many events; the workshops, the shop, and the offices with a separate boardroom are all appreciated too. The iconic site here has been a wonderful venue for the Hohepa fair and Christmas markets, where Hohepa has welcomed the support of the wider Hawkes Bay community.

This site has been vulnerable for a long time. There was a major flood in 1867, but there have been several since then. Ever since Vicky went to Hohepa School in Poraiti in 2006 we have watched the Hawkes Bay river levels with some anxiety, especially during heavy rains. Even during a drought the Clive River always looks very full. People have talked about camping at Clive only to have to leave quickly when rain made camping dangerous. Then in addition to the flooding threat, there is also the risk of abnormally high tides, and storm surges. We have seen how there can be high waves at any coast, in fine, calm weather, apparently without wind to raise their height. While all of New Zealand is vulnerable, and especially the Napier region, and we accept that, one wouldn’t want any of our residents at Hohepa Clive to drown. That would be a ghastly way to go. They need protection against such vicissitudes.

In 2017 the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie struck New Zealand. It was a tough season: there had been major hurricanes in the US, with Harvey causing severe flooding in Houston; Irma causing major damage to the US, and Maria causing devastation in Puerto Rico (and other places). We were very concerned about our eldest son John and his family in Atlanta, where there were several trees down, blocking roads, and schools closed, in addition to the wild weather.

But Debbie was local, and was predicted to strike Auckland. In actuality, it caused major flooding in Edgecumbe, and struck Hawkes Bay with such severity that there were power cuts and several trees down, causing roads to be closed. So the people at Clive could not have (been) evacuated, even if they’d wanted to, never mind that the bad weather was not expected to hit Hawkes Bay. Some Aucklanders felt cheated – I think they got off lightly! This event really brought home to us how dangerous the beautiful site at Clive is now.

Of course you can’t replace the Clive site, with all its history, and memories, of life, death, and festivals celebrating the rhythm of life and the seasons; but you can do the same wonderful things at another site, and make that iconic, too. I am grateful to be a part of this welcoming community.

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