Coming Home

In a sheltered bay on the south-eastern corner of Lake Taupo is the settlement of Hapete. Here is where Ariki Hamilton and his partner Meriana Morehu have returned to raise their children: five-year-old Ngaio, one-year-old Bella and another baby on the way.

Until recently the couple lived in Australia, where Ariki gained experience cooking in restaurant kitchens.

Then, after five years of city hustle, they decided to return and settle on Meriana’s ancestral land at Hapete, surrounded by her extended family in the papa kainga, the Maori term for village, which literally means ‘a nurturing place to return to’.

As both Ariki and Meriana are the offspring of teacher parents, they were educated in Kohanga and Kura Kaupapa schools and are fluent in Te Reo, something they hold dear for their own children.

“We always planned to come back when Ngaio turned five so he could attend the school Meriana’s mum, Colleen, started many years ago,” Ariki says.

With his new position as head chef at Taupo hotel Roses on Robert, he has introduced native flavours, such as pork and puha, to complement the restaurant’s traditional cuisine, which is proving popular. The move home seems to have been the right one for everyone.

“It’s a dream to have our kids grow up like this, amongst their cousins, out in the country like we did.”

Reported by Peter James Quinn for our AA Directions Summer 2017 issue

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