In February 1963, a group of Māori Aucklanders were on their way home from Whangarei after a Waitangi Day celebration when the brakes gave out in the Brynderwyn Hills, sending their bus down a steep ravine and killing half of those onboard. The tragic event that killed 15 members of a tight-knit Māori community has been memorialised by a play called Te Waka Huia.
Written by Helensville playwright Naomi Bartley, the play tells the story of two homeless teenagers who come across an old man living in a derelict bus. Pahi, the old man, befriends the teens, who then move in. The threat of losing the bus becomes clear, and the three characters explore themes of homelessness, loss, and friendship.
Bartley wrote the fictional play as a tribute to those who lost their lives in the deadliest road accident in NZ's history. Te Waka Huia will run for five nights (July 3-7) at the The Basement on Lower Greys Avenue in the CBD.