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Dining Out in Hastings, New Zealand

Published
November 25, 2022
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This post concludes my earlier post, ‘From Te Kurī to Te Mata’.

AFTER Napier, I popped into Hastings, the city where I grew up. Somewhat inland, Hastings has long been considered to be a bit more working-class than Napier. It was smashed up in the 1931 earthquake as well, if not quite so drastically, and also got some Art Deco buildings to replace the ones destroyed: though, being inland, Hastings obviously didn’t become a seaside resort and is largely bypassed by the tourist trade in comparison to Napier.

Growing up in Hastings gave me a very outdoor lifestyle. I probably played about eight sports at secondary school and was always outside and active.

My favourite beaches were Ocean Beach and Waimarama, both within half an hour’s drive of Hastings, or so. They have golden sand and I remember doing a lot of boogie boarding. There are other well-known surfing beaches like Te Awana, Waipatiki Beach and Haumoana but they are more stony. And a lot of wineries.

Havelock North is a nice town as well, just south of Hastings. There’s a good account of things that you can do in and around Havelock North on the Hawkes Bay Tourism website, as also for other parts of Hawkes Bay. There are several wineries nearby, the town itself is quite picturesque with streets radiating out from the centre and the Karituwhenua Stream walkway in the suburbs, Plus, it’s also on the way to Te Mata Peak, which I’m going to talk about at the end of this post.

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Joll Road, radiating out from Havelock North’s central roundabout. Photograph by Ulrich Lange of Dunedin, New Zealand, 23 February 2010, CC-BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

You can download a Havelock North parks and trails map, here. When I revisited the town, in January 2022, I also made a bee-line (ha ha) for the Arataki Honey Visitor Centre, typical of the boutique rural industries of the area and built in a streamlined modern style consistent with its byline 'since 1944'.

By the way, the names of Napier, Hastings and Havelock North (and plain Havelock in the South Island) all refer to British conquerors and rulers of India. That is to say Warren Hastings, General Charles Napier and Major General Henry Havelock. So too do the smaller Hawkes Bay town of Clive and its Clive River, which are named after Major General Robert Clive, historically known as ‘Clive of India’.

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‘Warren Hastings with his wife Marian at the garden at Alipore’. Public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.

Even the name Scinde in Scinde Island is an old way of spelling Sindh, a province of modern Pakistan and the name of an ethnic group that also lives in both Pakistan and India. There is a connection to the name Napier, because General Napier was the conqueror of the Sindh region.

Why are all so many Hawkes Bay place-names associated with the Indian subcontinent? Well, it turns out that colonial New Zealand was a bit of a retirement home for British servants of the Raj, in much the same way that Roman soldiers used to be given a farm on retirement in remote parts of their empire like Britannia. And so you see names like those in Hawkes Bay, or even for that matter names like Simla, Khyber Pass and Khandallah, dotted all over the New Zealand landscape along with all the others.

Some of these ‘Indian’ names might get revisited in the future, especially the ones that honour notable imperialists.

Hastings was initially marked out on a railway plan as Karamū Junction, Karamū being the original Māori name for the spot on which the proposed railway junction was to be sited. Karamū is a New Zealand relative of the coffee plant, itself capable of producing “a splendid, aromatic coffee,” though as far as I’m aware nobody’s tried to make a business out of it.

The short-lived Karamū Junction was renamed Hastings in 1873: a name claimed to have been inspired by Warren Hastings and one that fitted in with other local names more definitely associated with British India. So, some people I spoke to thought that Karamū, or Te Karamū (‘the Karamū), might be worth considering as a new name for Hastings. It might be more appropriate than Heretaunga, the current unofficial Māori name, which really refers to the surrounding Heretaunga plains. We could celebrate the new name with a cup of Karamū coffee!

People I spoke to also thought that Napier could be named Ahuriri, already the name of the best downtown beach and an inner-city area. Ahuriri seems to be the front-runner as an alternative name for Napier and possibly a little easier for foreign visitors to master than Mataruahou, which also comes to mind.

The site of Havelock North was originally known as Karanema’s Reserve. So, it might be renamed Karanema. Or perhaps Tukituki, after the nearby Tukituki River. Or Te Mata, after the nearby Te Mata Peak.

As for Clive, I haven’t heard of an alternative. But since Robert Clive seems to have been the worst of the bunch, a man described by the historian William Dalrymple as an “unstable sociopath” and widely blamed, among other things for causing famine in Bengal by looting that formerly prosperous province, which has still not recovered to this day, I guess we would have to say, basically, anything but Clive.

(As Dalrymple also reminds us, Warren Hastings was put on trial by the British House of Commons, no less, for looting and corruption in one of the most sensational impeachments of the age. Like Donald Trump, he got off: but, well, even so. So, perhaps anything but Hastings, too. Unless we decide that the town shall henceforth be named after Hastings in England and that Warren Hastings has nothing to do with it anymore.)

When I was growing up, I was blissfully unaware of all this future controversy, of course. I swam in the many swimming holes of the Tukituki River and also grew up speaking some Māori.

One boy I went to school with was named Ngahiwi Taumoana: I was surprised and pleased when I heard, later on, that he had become the chief of the Ngāti Kahungunu.

Hastings, as it will continue to be known for the time being at least, has a lot of the same Art Deco architecture as Napier, and distinctive curvy street lamps.

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Here’s a selfie I took next to the town clock tower: you can see that train tracks still run through town, unusual these days.

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And a downtown pedestrian mall to try and match Napier’s outdoorsy cafe society, these days.

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In January 2022, I got myself booster-jabbed at a friendly drive-in vaccination clinic run by the affordable community providers Tōtara Health in the town of Flaxmere just west of Hastings, where a friend of mine named Dianna lives, and then went to visit the markets at the Showgrounds Hawkes Bay at Tomoana, in the eastern part of Hastings.

There were snacks which I think were laid on cheaply or for free, and even a karaoke singer, at the drive-in:

Here are some photos of the markets at the Tomoana Showgrounds:

The website of Te Mata Figs is tematafigs.co.nz. There is nothing like fresh figs!

I revisited Hastings this October (2022) and was just blown away by the quality of the restaurants. They far outweighed the trashy cruise ship cafés in nearby Napier, a much more touristy town.

Map display showing Hastings in relation to Napier

Hastings eateries are to be found on a map which also appears interactively on the website HastingsCity.co.nz. What a change from earlier days!

Hastings City amenities map by the Hastings City Business Association

The curry I had at a place called Spice Traders was bloody amazing: a mixture of Indian and Chinese cuisine.

A lot of this food originated during lockdown. Another of my favourite places was a café called Wombo’s, which was originally a food caravan.

I had cha siu pork loaded fries and chicken and cream cheese Wontons.

Other places that come to mind include:

Here are some photos of Hastings scenes, including eateries I haven’t mentioned so far.

Café at Westerman’s: very Viennese

Funbun’s Asian Street Food

I’ve got a video of three places, Wombo’s, Spice Traders and, in between, Oh My Goodness as well.

Here is a picture of a little boy marvelling at the psychedelic apple outside Oh My Goodness.

Outside OM Goodness

The Hastings Fringe Festival

The next picture shows some California Mission-style toilets. The California Mission style is a bit of a thing round here, the city was largely destroyed in the 1931 earthquake, the so-called Napier Earthquake though it was just as bad in Hastings. Napier was rebuilt in an Art Deco style, while Hastings got more of the California Mission style, a Spanish-cum-Mexican style made trendy by early Hollywood movies about such characters as Zorro the Gay Blade (it meant something different in those days).

California Misson-style Toilets

It’s not really what you expect to come across in NZ. Here is the Hastings i-Site, or information centre, which looks like the actual headquarters of an old-time film studio. The lamp stands are Art Deco.

Hastings i-Site

Here’s some modern street art I quite liked.

Hastings Street Art

And some more middle-aged people just chilling outside the Long Island Delicatessen.

Outside the Long Island Delicatessen

And Sazio’s, another middle-European style cafe.

Sazio’s: I suspect the building was like that before.

The old Hastings Power Station is an eatery as well. There is a plaque describing its history.

The Old Hastings Power Station

And here is a place called The Travellers Lodge, which is quite economical to stay at.

The Travellers Lodge, an economical place to stay

Flaxmere and ‘The Face’

Back in 2017, I caught up with my friend Dianna from Flaxmere, and together we went up to Te Mata Peak (meaning ‘the face’). We went up there again in January 2022.

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With Dianna in Flaxmere

Te Mata Peak is like an immense wave in the land, with exposed limestone tops as the equivalent of the wave’s white foam. You can go all the way to the top and look out.

The name Te Mata is short for the Māori words Te Mata o Rongokako, ‘the face of Rongokako’, an ancestral hero who, in legend, bit a gap through the range at a spot known as Pari Karangaranga (echoing cliffs) or more prosaically, the Gap, where the distinctive cliffs of the range turn around to face each other.

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Looking northward along Te Mata Peak (2017)

And southward (2022)

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The top of Te Mata Peak (2017)

A 2022 view of Te Mata Peak's local mountain restaurant, café, and lodge, 'Peak House': tematapark.co.nz/peak-house/

There are lots of hiking and mountain biking trails on Te Mata Peak, as well. This billboard that I photographed in 2022 just shows the walking trails. Another billboard showed the mountain biking trails. You can see all the trail information on the website tematapark.co.nz, in any case.

Here's a 2022 video of the markets at Tomoana, and Te Mata Peak.

In 'From Te Kurī to Te Mata', I mentioned how the Heretaunga Plains were the only flat land for miles around. Most of the terrain in this area is very rugged. Indeed, across the whole of New Zealand, flat land is something of the exception that proves the rule.

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Dianna pointing something out, against a backdrop of rounded hills

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Rugged terrain near Te Mata Peak

Just lately, there was a controversy about how a firm called Craggy Range, makers of expensive wines who owned part of Te Mata Peak and who had planted it with their vines, whence the name of the firm, had built a pathway up their bit of the peak without consulting the Mana Whenua: the phrase denoting Māori who have a cultural interest in the region even when they no longer formally own the land.

It’s good for Mana Whenua to be consulted about things like that. But sometimes I wonder if we need to be wary of tokenism in acknowledging Māori cultural claims without being equally serious about parallel economic redress. Otherwise, it’s as if we white colonisers have got to eat the filled roll of the New Zealand landscape whether we are reactionaries of the sort who see Clive and Hastings as heroes, or well-meaning liberals— but, hey, you Māori get to keep the wrapper!

In a post that follows on from this one, called ‘East of the Ranges’, I travel further south into inland Hawkes Bay and the Wairarapa, a famous sheep-farming region now largely without sheep, explore a mountain railway where the trains no longer run, and finish up in the Akatarawa ranges looking for a giant tree I couldn’t find.

If you liked this post, you may be interested in my award-winning book The Neglected North Island: New Zealand’s Other Half.


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