Ngaruawahia's heritage & hope

You can look at the town of Ngaruawahia in a number of ways. As royalty and the reverse. You can see it the way those who have been born here do: a place with an innate closeness to the land, to the water and to family; the home of Kingitanga, Turangawaewae Marae, devotion to Princess Te Puea, who died in Ngaruawahia in 1952 but is mentioned in almost any conversation concerning the town; where there are league clubs, waka ama, community events, the Saturday markets.

Or, you can drive through it on your way somewhere – much less likely since the 2014 arrival of an expressway that bypasses the town – and see a shabby collection of shops with leery roller doors seemingly always in the shade, young people pushing prams in the middle of the day, the jobless – present at a rate three times the national average – the high proportion of fast-food outlets and an alarmingly large number of adults – one in three – with a smoke between their fingers.