Q&A: Tiriata Carkeek

When a colleague (shout out to librarian Robyn Edmonds!) suggested they plant a “sharing garden”, Ōtaki Library’s Team Leader Tiriata Carkeek ran with it.

The garden now sits in the courtyard entrance of the Ōtaki Library and offers crops like salads, sliver beet, pumpkin, spring onions, lemongrass and limes, and is home to a bee-friendly lavender hedge. It’s made for a great outdoor classroom for garden related workshops, a sweet spot to hold community events, and a pretty area read a book or enjoy a freshly picked snack. It’s a bit of a wild garden, but people love it, says Tiriata.

Between the books and the botany, we managed to grab Tiriata to talk about buses, Baxter, and her worm bin.

What is “home” for you?
Ōtaki is where I’ve lived – on and off – since I was five years old. It’s home to me. But Kawhia is the place at the centre of my soul. And when I dream it’s of the pohutukawa there on the beach down the dirt track from my nana’s old house.

If you could change one thing about Wellington what would that be?
I would have a regular, affordable and efficient public transport system that connected the entire region – as far as Palmerston North (but why stop there?). It would open up so many opportunities for work, business, study and tourism. And perhaps take some of the pressure off the housing market.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be variously a pirate, a rock star, a princess, a missionary, a cowgirl, a truck driver, an actress, a photo journalist, a pearl diver, a travel writer, a politician, a reporter, an author, a lady detective. It depended on what I was reading or watching at the time – and usually involved being far, far away.

Who is your favourite famous Wellington?
My first thought is James K. Baxter. Simply for writing these (perfect) words:

I saw the Maori Jesus
Walking on Wellington Harbour.
He wore blue dungarees,
His beard and hair were long.
His breath smelled of mussels and paraoa.

What’s your favourite place in the wider Wellington region?
My husband and I rarely visit Wellington without visiting Dragons for Yum Cha. Then we drive around the bays – from Oriental Bay to Owhiro – before heading home to Ōtaki. Each turn brings a different but equally spectacular view. I particularly love it out on the point past Shelley Bay. Whatever the season I get the urge to jump into that blue, blue water.

What do you like about your job?
I love working at Ōtaki Library because it’s right in the middle of the town and each and every day I get to chat with really fascinating people. I like to think of it as a community lounge where people can come, hang out and feel welcome. We have a small sharing garden out the front. When I’ve had too much screen time I can pop out and do some weeding, check the pumpkins and strawberries, or do a welfare check of the worm bin.

You just won lotto, what will you spend it on?
I’d definitely buy a house. Prices keep accelerating and I just can’t catch up. If it were Powerball, I’d create some innovative and affordable housing options for Ōtaki locals. It really saddens me to hear of people having to move from their hometown or of families living out of hotel rooms. And even with a decent job, I still have to think, “There but by the grace of God go I”. 

Read more Q&As here.


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