Katikati Haiku Pathway

The Katikati Haiku Pathway was officially opened in June 2000 as one of New Zealand’s Millennium Projects (its specially designed footbridge was dedicated as the sun rose on January 1, 2000). The pathway opened with 24 engraved river boulders, making it the first, and largest, collection of ‘haiku stones’ outside Japan.

The driving force behind the pathway was Catherine Mair, a well-known haiku poet and former editor of winterSPIN (now Kokako), who has long links with Katikati. She was born in the homestead on her grandparents’ farm, spent many happy childhood holidays on the land bordering the Uretara Stream, married at the homestead and later owned the farm with her husband, Selwyn. When the hard decision came to sell the land, Catherine convinced the developer that part of what was to become a housing subdivision should form a haiku pathway.


A river runs through it. A view of the pathway in 2000. Photo: Selwyn Mair

Her vision coincided with a drive to reclaim the Uretara Stream for the town. The river had been a vital link between settlers and the outside world in the 1870s, but 120 years later the land around the river as it passed behind the main commercial area was a wasteland.

The pathway runs either side of the Uretara Stream and links the town’s centre with the Highfields subdivision via the footbridge. The pathway has already been extended once and plans are to extend it further. The park-like setting, which includes trees, seats, and picnic tables, is also a popular venue for one of the town’s annual Summer Twilight Concerts and a sympathetically designed outdoor stage was added in 2015.


Easy does it – placing a boulder ready for engraving. Photo: Selwyn Mair

“It’s a bit improbable, isn’t it?,” Catherine says of the decision to create the pathway. “A country town that had never heard of haiku – but it was the right people at the right time. Even the blokes on the big machines moving the rocks into place got caught up in the magic of it, and the original engraver turned down a lucrative contract so he could finish his work here.”

Each boulder poem has been carefully selected to reflect its surroundings – one boulder was placed in the stream in the happy expectation that it would be covered by water during floods and left high and dry in the summer (pictured above). It was inundated by floodwaters twice within a year and had to be dug out both times after being almost covered by sand. “That will teach me to be careful what I say,” Catherine laughs. That boulder has now been moved to higher ground.

She hopes the pathway is a constant voyage of discovery, and that visitors find new dimensions each time they’re there, depending on the hour, the weather, the season.

The pathway forms only one of the many artworks in this self-proclaimed Mural Town. The involvement of the Katikati Open-Air Art umbrella group was vital in the early days of the pathway, while the goodwill and support of the Western Bay of Plenty District Council has also been invaluable.

The late Ted Harris was a councillor when Catherine approached him with her idea. He later became chairman of the Katikati Haiku Pathway Focus Committee (2006-2007), followed by Catherine (2007-13) and Margaret Beverland (2013-present).


Karakia (prayer) at a boulder dedication. Photo: Selwyn Mair

Another three haiku boulders were engraved in mid-2007, while a new entry sign, which features a haiku engraved on a metal plaque, was added in late 2008, bringing the total number of pathway project haiku to 31. The three boulders at The Landing, the site of the jetty where the town’s first Ulster Irish settlers stepped foot in their new home, were, in 2010, joined by nine new poem boulders and one poem engraved on to an existing boulder on the main pathway.


Stonemason Paul Gautron engraves a boulder. Photo: Elaine Fisher

The 10 Boulders for 10 Years project culminated in a birthday party event in Katikati on June 6, 2010 to mark the 10th anniversary of the pathway’s official opening. Western Bay of Plenty District Council had a birthday surprise in store – giving us an 11th boulder for a poem!


The doyenne of Australian haiku, Janice Bostok, gifted the pathway her paintings to be used on this information board. Photo: Sandra Simpson

Meanwhile, in 2005 Katikati Rotary donated a model logging dam as a water feature to both mark the centenary of Rotary International and the area’s milling history, and asked Catherine to help choose a haiku from those submitted by local writers as part of the installation. The park featuring this model sits on the other side of the main road, opposite the main entry to the pathway.

Read an interview with Catherine Mair on the pathway’s beginnings.

Souvenir Guidebooks to the pathway, containing each of the poems and notes about the poets, are available for sale at the town’s Information Centre (i-Site) or email Sandra.

The pathway committee runs the Katikati Haiku Contest every 2 years. Here are the results, with the most recent year being first.

2016 Results

Senior Section

autumn moon
eclipsed for a moment
migrating geese

– Tracy Davidson, UK, First

clear sky
a refugee kisses
the café window

– Cynthia Rowe, Australia, Second

autumn garden
  my thoughts
a deeper green

Scott Mason, US, Third

Best Local Haiku

pruning –                                                                    
I leave the twig
with the ladybird

– Catherine Bullock, Waihi

Highly Commended

museum –
in the artist’s ink stone
ancient  pines

– Andre Surridge, Hamilton

unclipped forsythia
all children
can sing

– Scott Mason, US

hot morning:
the sister’s peaked hat
is an exercise book

– Robert Alcock, Spain

heavy traffic
the fragrance of jasmine
crosses the road

– Elaine Riddell, Hamilton


tidal pool sea shapes glide past sea shapes

– Cynthia Rowe, Australia

daytime moon –
the lightness
of plum blossom

– Catherine Bullock, Waihi

name tapes
on boarding school clothes –
my mother cuts the thread

– Joanne Watcyn-Jones, Australia

a child
hiding in a hayfield
cloud drift

– Elaine Riddell, Hamilton

flight arrival
the slow descent and taxi
of a pelican

– Jan Dobb, Australia

garden concert
the aroma
of mozart

– Ernest J Berry, Blenheim

Junior section:

snow      the blackbird’s eyes

– Evie Johnson, 11 years, Christchurch, First

bouncing on the trampoline
Hazel goes up, I go down
flowers bounce with her

– Amber Church, 9 years, Waihi School, Second

the pen
comes alive

– Aria Chiari, 11 years, Omanu School, Mt Maunganui, Third

Highly Commended:

six hours of school
the last bell finally rings
woohoo freedom

– Axel O’Dea-Carey, 11 years, Katikati Primary School

silent room
everyone bites their nails
the winner is . . .

– Max Balmer, 8 years, Maungatapu School


eyes closed
still here
yet gone

– Darcee Taylor, 10 years, Omanu School, Mt Maunganui

family with me,
entering intensive care
Grandad in soft bed

– Jackson Green, 8 years, Maungatapu School

squeaky floorboards
bolt upright in bed
spooky shadows

– Holly Marjoribanks & Stevie Newton, 8 years, Omokoroa School

plucking off berries
keruru wearing
not so white t-shirt

– Dallas Mackenzie Hall, 9 years, Tauriko School

gliding through warm air
above salty crashing waves
shadows of seagulls

– Alyssa Alexander, 10 years, Waihi

mountain bike meets berm
gaining speed faster and faster
I’m riding on air

– Reuben Syme, 10 years, Kaimai School

2014 Results

2012 Results

2010 Results

2008 Results