Katikati’s Haiku Pathway – one of New Zealand’s Millennium Projects – is the largest collection of haiku 'stones' outside Japan and the only haiku pathway in the Southern Hemisphere.

Officially opened in June 2000 with 24 engraved boulders, the pathway by the end of 2007 had 30 poem boulders, with more planned.

The pathway meanders along both sides of the Uretara Stream just behind the town’s main street and is popular with locals, as well as national and international visitors. It is a tranquil spot in the heart of a bustling, country town and features a specially designed footbridge across the stream.

A unique millennium project
in the heart of Katikati

The main entry is a sealed vehicle drive leading down to a carpark and is found opposite Digglemann Park, on the southern edge of the main retail area. A pedestrian-only entry down steep steps is to be found behind the library, while a further entry is opposite Twickenham Café and beside a large oak tree near the town’s road bridge.

There are now also three engraved boulders at The Landing, a small reserve area on the corner of Beach Rd and the main road which marks the historic site where the area’s first European settlers came ashore. Katikati is the only planned Ulster Irish settlement in the world.

The pathway’s haiku were selected by Katikati poet Catherine Mair and have been engraved on to river boulders. Her selection criteria were that poems must have already been published (and so had been through an editorial process), and that they reflected their surroundings.

Catherine sees the pathway as a voyage of discovery - each person interpreting the poems in their own way according to time and tide, season and weather. One engraved boulder sits in the stream in the happy expectation that it will be covered by flood water at certain times, and left high and dry at others.

Haiku are, she says, words which sing, words which paint pictures, small stories which expand each location, images which invite you to make up your own stories, poems which are the direct experience of a moment, tiny poems which are wonderfully large.

But today’s beauty spot has grown out of humble beginnings. The Katikati Theme Team was formed in 1990 to, among other things, reunite the town with the Uretara Stream. The river had been a vital link to the outside world for the area’s Maori and European settlers, but the town had turned its back on the water, leaving the banks a forgotten and weedy wasteland.

The late Ted Harris, then a district councillor, saw the potential to create a place of beauty just a stone's throw from Katikati's busy main street. He persuaded the council to buy land and provide money for development, allowing the two dreams of a Haiku Pathway and a Heart of Katikati Reserve to come together.

Meanwhile, Katikati Open-Air Art, an organisation which had already given, and continues to give, the town an outdoor gallery of murals and sculpture, was also backing the project. It obtained a grant from Creative New Zealand to have the first 24 boulders engraved.

The pathway is now administered by the Katikati Haiku Pathway Focus Committee which as well as working closely with Western Bay of Plenty District Council to maintain and improve the pathway, also runs a biennial haiku contest, both as a fundraiser and to educate about haiku.

The pathway reserve is the venue for a large outdoor concert in January each year, and is used for other community activities and events.

'It’s a bit improbable, isn’t it?,' Catherine says of the founding of 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 who were placing the boulders so precisely for us got caught up in the magic of it.'

A guidebook to the pathway, which contains all the poems, a map of their positions and biographical notes on the poets is available from Katikati Craft Shop, Katikati Information Centre and Books A Plenty in Grey St, Tauranga.

For further reading on Katikati Haiku Pathway, visit www.poetrysociety.org.nz/katikati-haiku-pathway

Let's Enjoy Haiku

Haiku are not intellectual thoughts: they are small word paintings of nature which bring out emotion in the reader.

Haiku is an art of understatement - less is always better when it comes to choosing words and the language is plain and direct.

Haiku are written in the present tense, with sight, touch, taste, smell and hearing, guiding our awareness and understanding.

Haiku does not generalise or explain. Descriptions of emotion are avoided - instead the image, or moment in time, is presented in a way which evokes that emotion in the reader.

The number of lines can vary from one to four - whatever seems appropriate and effective.

The spirit of haiku should never be sacrificed for syllable count. The 17 syllable, 5-7-5 form is traditional, but over-concentration on the count can lead to unnecessary words being used, sacrificing pointedness for dullness.

Sometimes there are two separate themes in one poem, surprising the reader with an unexpected link. More meaning comes with each reading.

Remember - haiku directly experienced in a moment, are almost always the freshest and best.

katikati dawn
heron call from river mouth
raindrops on mural

Mike Subritzky

Sunrise on the Haiku Pathway.
Bridge supports feature pukeko footprints.

For more information on this website about writing haiku click here.

For links outside this site see:

Haiku news on the Poetry Society website www.poetrysociety.org.nz/haikunews

A guidebook to the pathway, which contains all the poems, a map of their positions and biographical notes on the poets is available from Katikati Craft Shop, Katikati Information Centre and Books A Plenty in Grey St, Tauranga.