Annette Taylor talks with Gordonton’s Cilla Henry and John Bridgman about their memories of a special member of our community who passed away earlier this year.
Bussy Harata (Charlotte) Ngataki was a compulsive worker.
Dressed in white overalls, she was often seen around Gordonton and further afield, clearing out drains, wielding a weed eater, or heading off somewhere on a borrowed tractor.
Bussy, says Cilla Henry, was the only person she knew who could go onto several pokai maraes – and take over.
“She was meticulous in everything she did and very fussy. She’d turn up before a function and tidy up, mow lawns, and get things ready. She couldn’t help herself. We call people who work like Bussy pukumahi – they just can’t stop! The little kids called her Uncle Bussy.”
Bussy was 73 when she died on May 22, and the funeral, at Hukanui Marae, was packed. “Bussy was affiliated to several maraes which held the annual Kingitanga Poukai through whakapapa to both her parents. She was dedicated to the Kingitanga, hence the huge crowd.”
She would help anyone in the community, it didn’t matter where or who they were.
“Actually, she should have been a traffic cop – she loved conducting traffic. She was good at it, had the orange road cones out all over the place and oh, the language if you defied her!” remembers Cilla.
Bussy was raised by her grandparents’, Anitana and Steve Pene, when Bussy’s mother passed away after giving birth to her.
“They adored her. She was brought up like my sister, we were very close. So she was my niece and my sister.
“My mother Anitana, we used to call her Mummy, would take us to the regatta at Ngaruawahia, and we’d wear nice clothes and she’d make us a nice lunch. She gave us everything, including her work ethic.”
Bussy and Cilla would walk together to school, in Hukanui Park.
“I was three years older, but I didn’t have to keep an eye on her, she could look after herself!”
She wasn’t, however, a tomboy. “She was very good at school. She used to wear dresses. She wore a beautiful dress at her 21st in the Hall. That was a huge party.”
After leaving Fairfield College, Bussy went south, picking tobacco in Motueka with friends. When she returned to Gordonton after a few years she lived for a while with Cilla before spending her later years in the small cottage opposite Woodlands Rd.
Cilla and Bussy were instrumental in getting local Anzac Day celebrations going again.
“We always celebrated Anzac in the Gordonton Hall when we were kids but it stopped after a few years. I began putting flowers by the Cenotaph. One day Bussy, who kept the area around the monument clean, went and got a flag from the $2 shop and put it on a pole. Suddenly Anzac was all on again!”
Cilla says John Bridgman was a good friend of Bussy’s. “They went to school together. And if Bussy ever needed a tractor, she’d just go and help hereself to whatever was inJohn’s garage to do her work. And he absolutely trusted her.”
JOHN SAYS her passing has left a big hole in the community. He agrees Bussy liked everything neat and tidy – whether her home, or others’, the village, maraes, or any other place she thought needed a tidy.
“She stayed in the old school house for a while, and from there could survey Hukanui Park and reprimand people who were up to no good, or even thinking about it. She was very vocal.”
Later Bussy lived in Princess Te Puea’s house on River Road, which she maintained to her usual high standards. “Turangawaewae and Waahi Marae benefited from Bussy’s care and attention.”
In addition to road cones, Bussy liked fluoro jackets, electric tape and standards. “Whether she was in her white overalls or her high-vis fluoro jacket, she was always doing something. I think she made work for herself to keep herself busy; you couldn’t tell her ‘that was good enough’ let alone argue with her. “Listen and don’t interrupt. Park your car where directed and don’t argue!”
Bussy is now buried at Gordonton Cemetery, sharing the plot with her grandparents.
“Every time there was a burial in that corner of the cemetery by the telephone exchange – which is close to the old uplifted urupa in the paddock – Bussy would be there mowing and tidying the area. She water-blasted headstones and repainted the lettering, such was Bussy.”
As John says, “There are many more stories to tell about Bussy. But mostly, you don’t realise how much somebody has done for other people until they have gone. Take your rest now Bussy and keep an eye on us, and if really necessary tell us if we are going wrong.
Our aroha from the people of Gordonton.”