Good things come in threes

Good things come in threes

A pioneer, an entrepreneur, and a future leader – not bad for a little road in Porirua. PHOTO: LAREE TAULA

Blink and you will miss Okowai Road in Porirua.

Yet on this quiet unassuming road about 400 jogging steps long, you will find: Gear Homestead – an elegant wooden building set in a manicured garden overlooking Porirua harbour: Adrenalin Forest – a pine tree forest transformed into an adventure playground, and: Aotea College – a decile five co-educational high school.

Local iwi Ngāti Toa Rangatira said prior to these developments, the area was abundant with mataitai (customary sea food gathering place) and was known as an area protected from southerly winds.  It also contained two little inlet bays that provided waterway access for a Ngati Toa Chief named Te Hiko.  The literal translation for Okowai Road is a ‘wooden bowl specifically used for carrying water‘.

Okowai Road encapsulates why at the 2010 International Liveable Communities Awards, Porirua was chosen by the international panel of judges as a world leader in the way people work together as a community to make good things happen for each other and the environment.

Judge Yoritaka Tashiro of Japan said, Porirua is a truly inclusive community that gives its citizens a sense that they belong in that place, a place where they are comfortable, that they have a voice that can easily be heard”.

Pioneer James Gear in 1882, originally from England, built the 18-room mansion, considered a prime location and style at the time.  Gear died in 1911 and the homestead remained in the Gear family until 1967.

In 1969, the homestead was acquired under the Public Works Act and earmarked for a school. This didn’t proceed and the property was bought by the Porirua City Council in 1975. It then became a community arts’ centre until it opened to the public as a functions centre in 1983.  It has continued as a sophisticated functions venue since and has featured nationally in several films including the main set of Peter Jackson’s 1988 film “Bad Taste”.


The picturesque Gear Homestead. PHOTO: LAREE TAULA

The picturesque Gear Homestead. PHOTO: LAREE TAULA

Entrepreneur French citizen, Jean Caillabet, also utilised this gem of a road when in 2010 he founded the Porirua version of Adrenalin Forest after  starting one in Christchurch and then the Bay of Plenty.

The concept was created in France in 1995 by a retired army officer and designed to challenge participants emotionally and physically within a safe environment for all ages and fitness levels.

The obstacle course next door to the homestead comprises a series of rope bridges,’ Tarzan’ swings and flying foxes constructed from platforms adjoined to the trees’ canopies.  The platforms range from 3 to 30 metres in the air to give participants the sense they are flying through the trees.

CAPTION: In the depths of Adrenalin Forest. PHOTO: LAREE TAULA

In the depths of Adrenalin Forest. PHOTO: LAREE TAULA.

In 1978, Aotea College was established directly opposite Gear Homestead.  The name ‘Aotea was gifted by Ngāti Toa Rangatira. The latest figures showed there  929 students enrolled, including seven international students, with an ethnic breakdown of 32% Pākehā, 30% Māori, 24% Pacific, 6% Asian, and 8% not-identified.

Along with the school’s impressive diversity, it has a unique feature: its head boy in 2016, Noa Woolloff, was also a teen father.

There was a range of public opinion when the news first broke whether Woolloff should continue his role as head boy but principal Kate Gainsford was unwavering in her support.  She said his personal qualities were evident. “His leadership skills and his care for other people were the skills everyone agreed were important for a head student.”

Woolloff has set out to destroy the stigma around teen parenthood and inspire other young parents to become strong and independent leaders through his own journey.

The young dad has completed his final year and among other pursuits, has started up a not-for-profit business called Increase Clothing NZ to raise money to help teen parents attend leadership courses such as Outward Bound.


Former Aotea College head boy Noa Woolloff presents Principal Kate Gainsford with a ‘Women's Wafer Tee’. PHOTO: LAREE TAULA

Former Aotea College head boy Noa Woolloff presents Principal Kate Gainsford with a ‘Women’s Wafer Tee’. PHOTO: LAREE TAULA


Support a worthy cause and purchase your very own tee from Increase Clothing

Other web links

Gear Homestead ––Papakowhai-and-Mana/Historic-site–Gear-Homestead

2010 International Liveable Communities Awards

Adrenalin Forest –

Aotea College

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Article by Laree Taula

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Article by Laree Taula

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