October 2018: Landings

Last week I visited The Landing, in the Catlins area on the Otago coast. It’s the place Landing Press is named after – the small poetry press that three of us established two years ago. It’s also the place where my great-grandfather (the original settler) set up his home. I thought that maybe there would be no trace of The Landing any more, but there it was, commemorated in a memorial to the people who had settled there.

The Landing is several hundred metres up the Owaka River from the sea. It’s where cargo boats used to come and unload or load up. It’s beautiful. But there’s a bar across the Owaka harbour/river. Boats coming up the river had to navigate the bar, which was dangerous and the cause of shipwrecks.

So our tiny Landing Press is named after a place both beautiful and dangerous! I love that.

My great-grandfather, Captain Charles Hayward, was the harbourmaster there for 15 years. Eventually he was drowned in a shipwreck himself, and the story of his drowning is a big family story.

It’s become a cliché to say we’re a country of immigrants. I don’t feel like an immigrant. I feel deeply rooted in this country, and I get annoyed with people who says there’s no New Zealand identity. I feel as though I have a strong New Zealand identity, and it’s shaped by all the elements of this country – Māori, Pākehā, Pasifika, and our environment and history. But last week I did think a lot about my great-grandfather. He had it easier than a lot of migrants. He came here by choice, not driven by war or some other turmoil. He was able to pursue his chosen profession of sailor here – unlike many professional migrants today. He came to a part of the country that was relatively stable and settled, in a time of turbulence in the other parts of the country.

Maybe that’s why he was able to establish a strong family who went onto to contribute so much to the city of Dunedin.

So maybe there’s an immigrant lesson in this after all. If migrants enjoy security and safety, and are given the opportunity to use their existing skills, or develop their potential, they can become big contributors to this country.

Now I’ve ended up on a moralistic little lesson. I didn’t mean to go there. I’d rather just think about my great-grandfather steering his cutter Bessie up the river towards The Landing, with our tiny Landing Press sailing bravely after it!