Topic: People - Four Brothers Beach

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The MacKenzie family and their farm are located here.  There are two houses on the property.  The original homestead was home to Carol and George MacKenzie, the matriarch and patriarch of the family.  They were who I primarily dealt with for most of the time.  Kathy and Stephen MacKenzie, (one of Carol and George’s sons), live in the other house.



27 July 2003  


I visited the MacKenzie’s place to obtain permission to go across their farm to Gibbs Fishing Point.  While at the MacKenzies, I photographed a pile of skinned, dead possums.


24 November 2003

I saw a young man on the beach.  We didn’t speak to each other as we were both concentrating on the incoming tide.



18 January 2004  



On the way back after photographing down at Beach One, I stopped off at the MacKenzies hoping to take a family photo.  Most of them were home so I took a couple of shots, the one shown here being the best.



29 February 2004


SUPER-STORM EVENT.  Super-Storm Three.  At the Whitecliffs Walkway’s gate opposite the MacKenzies, I was greeted by a couple coming out with their car.  The lady who kept the gate open said cryptically.  “I wish you luck in driving down the road.”

Foolishly I drove in.  Yes, I had expected to see puddles and bulging streams.  And for the road to be even more corrugated and puddled than last week.  What I hadn’t expected though was for it to be an impassable quagmire.  I slushed a short distance through a road that had almost melted under the tremendous onslaught of water.  To make things worse, clods of grass had either been washed onto the road, or put there to make driving ‘easier’.  Whatever.  They just added to the slush pile of mud, mud and yet more mud.  At the first backable point, I very carefully turned Cecilia, my car, around and slid my way back towards the gate.

The thought of having to hump my gear and hike all the way down to Twin Creeks and the Stock Tunnel in my gumboots didn’t thrill the daylights out of me.  However, given the horrendous state of the road, I had little choice.


8 March 2004  


Just past the Whitecliffs Walkway’s gate opposite the MacKenzies, there are some stockyards and a large shed.  By happenstance a flock of sheep were being penned prior to being shorn.

21 March 2004

I went up to Tongaporutu specifically to interview Carol and George MacKenzie.  After lunch, I met up with them in the conservatory of their 1920’s modernised house.  Carol intimated that she was 75 and had been there all her life.  Her maiden name was Gibbs.  The Gibbs, her parents, originally owned the entire farm of around 1200 acres in total before it was later split up into two separate farms.  The MacKenzies own one farm where they farm Angus cattle and Romney sheep.  The Gibbs owns the other.  They too farm Angus cattle and Romney sheep.  The Gibbs’ farm is called Whitecliffs Station.  The Gibbs family per sae have been at Tongaporutu since around 1899.

During the interview, Carol revealed a tragic low point in her life.  That was the loss of a beloved grandson in a freak accident on the farm about ten years ago.


14  April 2004

At the Whitecliffs Walkway gate next to the MacKenzies, I came across a small group of Japanese tourists who had left their car outside and had just returned from walking part way down.  They obviously didn’t know that they could take their car down to the locked gate.  They wanted to know how long it would take to walk down to White Cliffs and they also wanted to see the Three Sisters.

I advised that for $5 they could take their car down the Gibbs farm track to the barn, then walk down to the beach and see the Three Sisters up close.  It later transpired that the Gibbs were out so the man left a $10 note under their doormat.  He didn’t have any less and I didn’t have any change.  This didn’t worry him though.

I thought it would be nice to give these people some pleasant memories of their trip.  And to make it possible for them to see the Three Sisters.  Something that they would have missed because the tide wouldn’t have permitted them safe access from the public Tonga Reserve route that follows the cliffs next to the Tonga River.

I opened up the first gate on the Gibbs farm and told them where to go.  Just as I was about to leave, a Japanese woman got out of the car and gave me an orange and a can of sports drink called Pocari Sweat.  I politely refused saying I hadn’t done it for any gain.  She insisted, and then I remembered that it is a Japanese custom or something to offer something in response to a kindness.  I accepted and thanked her.  Knowing that I had made them happy and given them the opportunity to have an enriching experience was reward enough for me though.


6 June 2004  


I re-photographed the MacKenzie family as some of them had commented that they hadn’t been smiling when I first photographed them on the 18th January.



20 August 2005

There were a few people on the beach.  One group had a cream Labrador dog.  All of them, me included, were enjoying the gorgeous day.


30 November 2005

Down near Pinocchio, a young foreign couple caught up with me.  The man sported a nice camera.  I advised them not to go further on towards Cathedral Cave as the area between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave (MacKenzies Bay), can be very dangerous.  Today was no exception.

Later on I passed the young couple again.  He was busy photographing the waterfall to the rear of the Oldest Brother.  No rainbow was present as the sun was too high.



30 January 2006  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Pat Greenfield illustrating 'before and after' in front of The Four Brothers


PHO2008-1558, PHO2008-1559


Film shoot with the crew of Sticky Pictures.  I was one of six people and their projects that they were filming for the upcoming major exhibition, Earth, Wind and Fire, by Te Papa Museum, Wellington, starting on 1 April of this year.  The resultant film was to be a part of this exhibition which was planned to run for ten years.

The crew of Sticky Pictures were:  Director, Mark Albistonia, Producer (who couldn’t be here), Jonathan Hawke, DOP, and Martyn Williams (he was the main cameraman; Mark also did some camera work.  Sound, Tony Parkinson.  They used both digital and film cameras (moving pictures).

The shoot was planned for two days and for this purpose we all stayed at the Gibbs rented out farm homestead.  Today we planned to shoot on the Three Sisters Beach and the Four Brothers Beach.  The weather, calm sea conditions, good beach state and a very low 0.2m tide due at 5.39 pm were all perfect.

From inside the Twin Arches cave, I took a photo of Mark and Martyn.  A little later on I photographed Mark (I think it was him), standing in front of the Brothers rock stacks.  He was holding a photo of mine that showed the Four Brothers before the middle Brother was destroyed by an Alpha storm on 29.9.2003.


1 March 2006

I was checking my camera battery after changing my roll of film down at Cathedral Cave, when suddenly, some rocks (not large), crashed down from the cliff behind me.  I was standing at the cave’s entrance with my back facing it.  I ran, but one of the rocks bounced up and hit my right gumboot.  It didn’t cause an injury, but gave a sufficient knock to remind me, as if I needed reminding, that I was in the Death Zone.  This was particularly relevant here as the cliff face was crumbling away quite rapidly since being dealt a body blow by the 19th September 2005’s massive Alpha Storm.


17 July 2006

I went along to the MacKenzies to show them my Tonga CD.  (My part of the short film done for Te Papa’s exhibition ‘Earth, Wind and Fire’.  This was filmed on 30th and 31st January).  However, a lot of people turned up.  They were there to attend the funeral of ‘Uncle George’, Carol MacKenzie’s husband, who had recently passed away.  Out of respect, I left.

9 September 2006

Before starting ‘work’, I popped in to see Carol.  She was feeling quite lonely after losing her beloved husband, George, in July.  (Even though her family are close by, they cannot be there all the time and obviously cannot replace George).  She had been looking at a documentary on the late Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter.  We both agreed that it was a devastating loss to the world.  She was very glad to see me and said that she regarded me like a daughter.  This was quite a compliment.  I regarded her as like a surrogate mum, having lost my own mum back in 1991.  Both of us having lost our partners knew the intense grief involved with such a loss.  Only those that have been through it know what it is like.  We could empathise with each other.  It was a bond that united us.

Carol also asked if I would pop in and see her whenever I came up.  I said I would.


(27.12.2010).  I subsequently didn’t visit every time I came up to Tonga, but I visited whenever I could.  This was often due to time/tide and location constraints.


27 September 2007

I had come up to Tonga with Adam Buckle, a fellow photographer.  I wanted to show him Beach One as he hadn’t been there before.  First, after introducing him to Parani Gibbs, we called into the MacKenzies.  Adam waited while I popped in to see Carol.  I had been meaning to visit her for quite some time.  I mustn’t leave it so long again.  She was looking quite frail now.  She was having some soup in her lovely, sunny conservatory and was being serenaded by her favourite yellow canary with no name.

23 December 2007  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach


There were some people on the beach.  This was to be expected, it being a Sunday and just before Christmas.  There had been a recent cliff fall at the south-western entrance to the Twin Arches cave.  Some people had just toddled through when I arrived there.  I quickly grabbed a photo of them.  They were, just as I was at the beginning of this project, completely unaware of the dangers posed by regular cliff falls.


6 April 2008  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach 



Before venturing down to the Three Sisters and the Four Brothers beaches, I stopped in to see Carol.  This was in part to see her and also to drop off the MacKenzies copy of Puke Ariki’s Taranaki Whenua Life Blood exhibition book that featured my Tonga Project.


Carol was pleased to see me as I was her.  She still had her two canaries and was busy knitting.  She missed George, her late husband, terribly.


I know how she feels.  Life without my Les has little purpose.  It is hard to get motivated by anything.  I’m having problems with my Tongaporutu project.  No-one bought any of my photos at my recent Bookstop exhibition.  I know people are watching what they spend, but, if no-one cares about or values what you are doing, what is the point of doing it?


At least Carol has her loving family close by so that is something.  (They live in a separate house on the family farm).  Not that I don’t have family.  It’s just that our situations are different.


Down on the beach, I spotted a fellow photographer, a bloke.  We never spoke and never got too close, both being taken up with our own thing I suppose.


Later on, back at the Point, I could see the lone photographer near the oldest Brother.  With the dark, brooding sky and a mooching Mt Egmont just visible, I forced myself to change the lens back to the 105mm, then took a landscape shot looking south down the Four Brothers Beach.  I like to include people where possible as people relate to people.



6 May 2008  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach


While walking down the beach, I stopped to look back.  As I did so, I was quite surprised to see a lone figure at the Point as it was a weekday.  Later on I realized the figure was that of a man.  He was heading down the beach with a large walking stick or cane.


We met up with each other at Pinocchio.  He was pleasant enough.  He was visiting from Perth, Australia, and was here for a month.  He’d lived here some 20 years ago and was amazed at the changes.  In particular how far back everything had gone, especially the sand dunes.  I advised him not to linger here too long as it was dangerous.  As things had changed so much, he may not now realize how dangerous this particular spot, between Pinocchio and Cathedral Cave, could be.



14 December 2008  

Tongaporutu Coastline - cliff sequencing


While doing cliff sequencing on the Four Brothers Beach, I saw a number of people there.  As I headed towards Cathedral Cave, one of two people came towards me.  It was Adam Buckle, a fellow photographer!  I had been so intent on cliff sequencing photography that the two people had basically been reduced to scale figures.  I wasn’t expecting to know who they were.  Adam introduced me to the woman.  Her name was Helen Wilkin.  I think she was a member of the Inglewood Photo Club.



8 February 2009  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach


PHO2011-1560, PHO2011-1568

The MacKenzie family, including extended family members, were the last on my ‘to do’ list of farming family photos today.


While waiting for all of the family members to arrive, I had lunch and a mug of tea in Carol’s conservatory.  It was good to catch up with her again.

Later on, I popped along the Four Brothers Beach to check on the Twin Arches cave.  I saw some surfcasters fishing there.  It was the first time I have observed this.  They were also on the Three Sisters Beach.  As I was approaching the Brothers rock stacks, one of the surfcasters hauled in a huge fish.  (Well, it looked huge).  It turned out to be a very nice snapper.  The man whose name was Shane Dunlop, was obviously thrilled with his catch.  (PHO2011-1568.)  He said it was rare to get a good fish like this because the kayakers clobbered them and took several at a time.  Shortly afterwards, another surfcaster reeled in an equally impressive snapper.  He was Kevin Campkin.  (PHO2011-1569).  I took his photo as well as Shane’s.


When I had finished and returning along the beach towards the Point, I spotted a group of four fishermen yakking near the Oldest Brother.  Two of the men were the fishermen I had photographed earlier.  The other two were my ex next door neighbours of when I lived at Prudence Place in Oakura.  Namely, David and Carol Carroll.  Small world!  It turned out that they were all members of the New Plymouth Surfcasting Club.  This explained why there were so many surfcasters up here on the same day.


11 March 2009

I popped in to see Carol to deliver the family photos.  I really like Carol.  We had a little chat.  She still drives, even though she is in her eighties and quite frail.  Her favourite yellow canary with no name was still going strong, but he was moulting.  She had seen my letter in the paper re the sparrows’ deaths in town and the probable cause.  I then spotted a green stick insect on my slacks.  We both smiled when I said I’d just go outside and put it on a tree branch.  While outside, I re-pegged a blown off towel that was draped on the grass.  I also brought in a couple of other washing items that were dry.

Carol said that Cathy wouldn’t be long.  She then arrived.  Everyone liked the photos which is always a huge relief.  Especially as the more people who are in the photo, the more difficult it is to get everyone smiling, or at least not looking sullen.  Also, to make sure that no-one has their eyes shut when photographing, I always say, “Don’t blink”, when I’m about to take people photos.  It works most of the time!


12 April 2009

After having been to Te Kawau Pa and Pilot Point, I popped in to see Carol before heading down to the Three Sisters Beach.  There was a cock blackbird on her small lawn.  She likes birds, the same as me.


19 September 2009  


Before checking out the new loop road at the locked gate as suggested by Parani, I popped in to see Carol.  She had had her hair cut by her family.  I related to this as I used to cut my mum’s hair.  Carol’s hair was so short that I said she looked like a cancer victim.  We had a bit of a laugh about that – my sick sense of humour and all that.  She still hadn’t got a flash new cage for her favourite canary (she has two).  I suggested pigs might fly first.  Again, we had a good laugh about it.

Just then her black/brown long haired cat wandered in.  It goes by the endearing name of Ratbag.  Apparently, Ratbag loves to ride on the trap atop her Zimmer frame.  Carol also mentioned her favourite dog, Tin or Tip I think it was called.  Anyway, Tip popped up to see her the other day and then was found dead the next morning.  Carol was quite upset about it as Tip was an old dog and her favourite.  I’m glad I popped in to see her.

As I left and secured the gate, one of the MacKenzies rams came up to me.  It was obviously quite tame, so I patted it on the head and talked to it, as you do!  Perhaps it had been hand reared as had the others in the immediate vicinity, for they weren’t afraid of people.  Usually sheep run a mile if not sensitised to people.

Later on, while down on the beach near the Twin Arches, I spotted someone in a red jacket with a tripod.  He was Neil Ingram of the New Plymouth Camera Club.  He was using a digital camera.



30 January 2010  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach


After I had been exploring down by Pinocchio, I noticed that some people had come around the Point and onto the beach.  It seems as if Tongaporutu is becoming quite popular as more people ‘discover’ it.



28 March 2010  


Eight members of the Taranaki Geological Society and I trekked down the beach taking in the sights.  From Pinocchio down to Cathedral Cave the beach was well built up.  I advised the group that we were lucky as this section of the beach is often inaccessible, even at low tide due to localised wave bunching.

I took everyone down to the cave.  With regards to the sand cover, it was the highest down here and inside the first part of the cave that I could remember.  We all walked right down to the end of the cave.  Some water pools were present down at the rear end.  The water was quite cold but not deep.  For everyone, as I had expected, this proved to be the highlight of their trip to Tongaporutu.

Inside the cave the light was amazing.  This was possibly due to the low angle of the sun coupled with whitish cloud providing bounce light.  Such was the light that even people right down the end of the cave, which is 100 feet in length, were lit up like Christmas trees.  We all took photos.  Mine turned out to be unsharp.  This wasn’t a fault with my digital camera, rather my ignorance on how to use it properly.  My ignorance in turn was due to sheer laziness in not getting to fully know the camera.  I could blame it on the 200 odd page user manual, or something else.  However, the real truth of the matter is that I had put learning how to use the camera properly in the “too hard basket”.  This being right next to the “can’t be bothered with all that guff basket”.  And as for the computer side, Photoshop, etc ...  That’s in the “too complicated basket”.

The truth is I’m comfortable using medium format film, I like using film, so there.

Oh, as an aside, on the 29th, I found out from the doctors that the painful, itchy rash I have on my back is Shingles.  I could use that as another excuse as well as being so tired, but we won’t go there right now.


3 March 2010  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach


Due to the great weather conditions, high beach state coupled with a 0.1m very low tide, I returned to Tonga with the panoramic camera in the hope that I would finally be able to access the seaward side of the Gibbs’ Fishing Point where Gull Rock is located.  (This I was able to do, the first and only time that I have been able to do so in the ten years that I have been documenting the coast.  9.1.2011).

When I arrived down at Cathedral Cave, two women were there.  I asked if I could photograph them at the cave’s entrance to give scale.  I was so pleased they were there, and as luck would have it, I had my panoramic camera!  The women were mother and daughter.  Namely, Vanessa and Jaleesa Steadman.  They came from Stratford I think the mother said.


11 April 2010  

Tongaporutu Coastline - Old Man Puriri Hill


I hadn’t planned on coming up to Tonga today, but the weather had been exceptionally fine, calm and clear for some time now.  I thought it would be opportune to try and get some last overview images on the Old Man Puriri hill before the project proper finishes later this year.

I phoned the Gibbs for permission to go up the hill.  No problem.  Before going up, I popped in to see Carol first.  Like me, she has had Shingles.  She was quite sad as her beloved favourite canary had died.  She really missed its singing.  She still had her other canary and two cats though, one of whom was Ratbag.

Stephen was mowing her lawns while I was there.  He said “Hi.”  I commented to Carol that she still hadn’t gotten a new cage for her now deceased canary.  She asked me to look at a notice stuck to the electric meter.  Specifically it dealt with TUIT.  In short it was a derogatory take on the phrase:  “I’ll/we’ll get around TO IT.”  George had put it up apparently.  We finally gave each other a hug, and then I drove along the walkway to where I would have to haul my carcass and gear up the steep Old Man Puriri hill.

Up top, though I’ve seen the sea flat before, this was the first time I could remember there being periods where you couldn’t hear anything at all.  Nothing, no tiddly waves splashing, nothing.  Up high you can hear everything.  Today I heard the odd plane, the odd bird now that it was evening, crickets chirping, buzzing daddy long legs, rasping grasshoppers and occasionally, a very placid Tasman Sea.  I got some great images, both with the panoramic camera and the digital camera.

Finally, I had finished.  I packed away all of my gear and with just a few minutes remaining before the sun disappeared below the horizon, I strolled past the Old Man Puriri tree.  I was amazed at just how silver the sea had become, and there was a distinct narrow orange/red band on the skyline with the sky above mirroring the sea.  I quickly set up the tripod, grabbed the digital camera and lined up the sinking sun behind the lowest pom pom on the southern side of the Old Man Puriri.  I knew the tree and the foreground would be black, but that was okay.

The reason I took this photo was not just for me, but for Carol.  I knew that she had a soft spot for this tree.  I just had time to take one shot.  Anyway, I thought it might turn out okay, but couldn’t stop to view the image, apart from a quick glance.  This was because the light was now fading and I had a long way to go to get down the hill without a torch to Cecilia, my patiently waiting car.


29 April 2010

Before driving down to Twin Creeks and close to White Cliffs where I planned to do some photography, I dropped in to see Carol.  This was primarily to give her a print of the Old Man Puriri tree I had taken at sunset on the 11th of this month.  She was pleased to see me and liked the photo.


11 September 2010  

 Tongaporutu Coastline - Four Brothers Beach


Up at Tonga, the atmosphere was incredibly clear.  Such was the clarity you could almost reach out and touch White Cliffs and Mt Egmont.  The only other place that I have seen with such clarity is the MacKenzie Country down in the South Island.  Down there, I found the extreme clarity to be somewhat unnerving, like there was nowhere to hide.  Sounds stupid I know, but that’s what I felt.  Up here, next to the sea, I felt the opposite.  Perhaps because with the sea and all of its moods, you perceive yourself to be safer if you can see what’s coming?

Just before I accessed the Passageway at the Point, two surfcasters arrived.  They were Kevin Campkin and Shane Dunlop.  Quite a coincidence as I had photographed them both on the 8th February 2009.  Back then they had caught a nice snapper each.  We said “Hi,” and commented on how magnificent the weather was for the middle of winter.

Shortly afterwards after Kevin had set up near the Oldest Brother, I asked if I could photograph him and his rod for an environmental photo.  He was very obliging, although it would have been better if he’d been looking out to sea rather than back at me.


18 September 2010

MEGA-STORM.  By the time I drove off to see Carol MacKenzie after photographing at Te Kawau Pa, Rapanui North and Pilot Point, I was quite dehydrated.  This was due to the desiccating effects of the brutal wind and salt spray.

Just before entering Carol’s conservatory, her cat, Ratbag, shot outside.  Carol was sitting rugged up in a chair.  She was still missing her favourite canary. Shortly after my arrival, Kathy and Stephen walked in with some firewood.  I asked Carol if she could write up something about them (the MacKenzies) for me.  I was particularly interested in any anecdotal bits and pieces.  They all seemed comfortable with that.

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