Tariu has become a local legend for his amazing work ethic whereby he gets up every work day at 4am to clean up the town long before the sun rises.
Born in Atupa on February 25, 1958, to parents Vaine Kiikii Anidonia and Teremoana Are, he has been with the ministry for 16 years, and joined the civil service side in 2010.
Director of civil service Henry Tupa spoke glowingly about his friend, and even mentioned how Tariu’s early work used to get him into a bit of trouble.
“When I first started, people were complaining saying ‘why are you making someone a slave like that’,” Tupa said
“I told him for many months, you can’t start at 4am, you have to start at 7am, and then I just gave up because he wouldn’t stop.”
The very first time that Tupa told Tariu to stop coming in at 4am, the next day he actually arrived at 3am, showing how committed he was to cleaning up the town.
And because he is always up so early, he often witnesses fights or accidents, and sometimes the police go straight to him for information.
“He’s like a night watchman and a cleaner at the same time,” Tupa laughs.
His work has earned the respect of many people in the community, and Tupa said that even people such as prime minister Henry Puna and MPs Rose Brown and Ngamau Munokoa know his name.
When recently appointed Internal Affairs secretary Anne Herman found out about Tariu, she didn’t try and stop him from work, but rather set out to keep him safer.
“We got him a vest, and we have also ordered a helmet for him with a light on it. We also told him to work where the lights are, because it’s dangerous in the dark,” Tupa said.
Tariu himself is fairly humble and reserved, despite his celebrity status, and said that the reason he starts his day so early boils down to a pretty simple reason.
“When I wake up in the morning, I want to go to work,” he said. “I love to work.
He was honoured that the ministry wanted to celebrate his birthday, the day after Tupa and friends threw a smaller gathering that was no less memorable.
“We forgot the cake, we had everything else except that. So I cut off a pig’s head, which is usually part of the traditional investiture for a chief.”
“So he bit the pig’s ear,” Tupa laughed. “He really is an amazing guy.”
- Conor Leathley