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Cooking up a storm for cyclone relief

Saturday 18 March 2023 | Written by Derek Fox | Published in Local, National


Cooking up a storm for cyclone relief
Mere Pohatu, who will be the guest speaker at a special (fundraising) dinner at Coastal Kitchen in Tupapa next Saturday, checking out a hemp farm in Central Hawkes Bay, New Zealand. SUPPLIED/23031753

A woman who was a civil servant responsible for one of the worst hit areas damaged by Cyclones Hale and Gabrielle on the eastern seaboard of Aotearoa, will be the guest speaker at a special dinner at Coastal Kitchen in Tupapa, next Saturday. Derek Fox reports.

Mere Pohatu was the Regional Director for Te Puni Kokiri – the Ministry for Maori Development – in the Gisborne-East Coast-Wairoa-Napier-Hastings area for 30 years, retiring last December.

In that role, she has been in the thick of dealing with the devastation and recovery efforts from the more than half a dozen weather bombs that have struck that region in the last 18 or so months. 

While Pohatu is of Ngai Tahu (South Island) descent, her husband is Ngati Porou from the affected area.

Her father – Leslie White – was a Second World War fighter pilot, who was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses (DFCs) for his bravery; one from a Polish Squadron he flew with in Europe, and the other from the RAF - Royal Air Force. 

Better known locally as “Chalky” White, he was shot down over France, and although captured after he made a forced landing, he overpowered his guard and escaped through France to Spain and back to England to rejoin the war. His story is recorded in the book “Pilot on the run”.

Ever the adventurer and up for a challenge, twenty years after the war and having returned to farming in Southland, Chalky pulled up stakes and moved his family to a new home – a five thousand acre backcountry, hill country farm inland from Ruatorea on the East Coast.

Waingakia Station is typical of the hill country properties in the area which have in recent years been planted in pine forests. And while Pohatu’s parents have passed away, the remaining family members have been approached by a company wanting to purchase the property for that purpose. 

The controversy about forestry waste/slash ending up in the country’s waterways and beaches has caused a slowdown in negotiations, and Pohatu may

allude to that in her speech.

Next Saturday’s dinner is to raise funds to help with the recovery effort in Aotearoa.

Coastal Kitchen’s two regular chefs – Rangi Johnson and Tony Bullivant – along with other helpers, are volunteering their services.

Other supporters include CITC, Rarotonga Brewery, Coral Sands Apartments, Club Raro, Vaima, Computer Man and MatMan; who are helping with goods and services.

The menu is a mixture of Island and Aotearoa delicacies.

There is a limit of 120 tickets for sale at $100 each.

The proceeds from the dinner and the other fundraising events, including an auction on Saturday night that have been organised by the Tauturu Aotearoa fundraising committee will be handed to the New Zealand High Commission to be used in the recovery effort in New Zealand.


Canapes on arrival

*Hoki Mornay, Cheese and Chive Pastries

*Smoked Marlin en croute with Kikorangi Blue and Watercress Mayo

*Yellowfin Tuna Sashimi with Wasabi Soy and Cajun Seared Marlin Sashimi

Main Buffet

*Maori Fried Bread

*Poached Mutton Birds

*Te Ika Mata with Crispy Kuru

*Beef and Pork Boil Up with Pumpkin, Cabbage, and Puha

*Slow Roasted Lamb with Hangi Cooked Kumara and New Potatoes

*Baked Mahi Mahi filets with a Coconut, Coriander Sauce, and Paw Paw Salsa

*Warm Roast Vegetable Salad with Basil, Chives and a Balsamic Dressing

*Mixed Lettuce and Watercress Salad with Tomato, Cucumber and Garlic Croutons

❃ Whole Roasted Pig with Apple Sauce

Dessert Buffet

*Kiwi Pavlovas with Citrus Vanilla Cream, Passionfruit and Hokey Pokey Crumbs

*Fresh Fruit Salad

*Kaanga Waru (Kumara steamed pudding) with Butterscotch Sauce, Toasted Akari and Soft Cream