Ngā roimata o Mānuka (The tears of Mānuka)

Chamber ensemble (2-7 players), Works with taonga pūoro

For string quartet and taonga pūoro

Ngā roimata o Mānuka was commissioned by the New Zealand String Quartet (NZSQ) and Bob Bickerton. The first performance was given on 4 February 2024 at the Nelson Centre for Musical Arts as part of the 2024 Adam Chamber Music Festival.

About the work

I wanted this commission for the NZSQ and Bob Bickerton (who ran the Adam Chamber Music Festival for many years) playing taonga pūoro to commemorate a place in the Nelson region, which I have come to know quite well over the years.

Haulashore Island off the coast at Whakatū (Nelson) was known as Mānuka in the mid-19th century; whether named by Māori or Pākehā is uncertain. But one meaning of mānu, according to Williams’ dictionary, is a ‘launching place’, the starting place of a journey, and it seems to me that may have been an earlier meaning of the name Mānuka, which was used by local iwi as a safe landing and camping place when hunting birds and kai moana on the Boulder Bank. Seen in this way, Mānuka is quite similar in meaning to Haulashore.

In 1906, the Cut was blasted in the Boulder Bank close to Mānuka to establish Nelson Haven, the forerunner of Port Nelson. Local iwi were concerned about the disturbance of the mauri of moana and whenua as altered currents reshaped the land and even changed river flows.

A decade or so ago, a group of friends went on a hikoi to the island — Lyell Cresswell, Richard Nunns, Jenny McLeod, Helen Bowater and myself, with Bob Bickerton ferrying us. We were supporting Lyell, whose great-great-grandfather emigrated from Britain but died of typhoid on the ship before setting foot on land, so was buried alone on Mānuka. (His family travelled on a different ship, arriving shortly afterwards to the news of his death.) Lyell, Richard and Jenny are no longer with us, but were very much in my mind while I wrote this abstract, rather than narrative, piece.


The Adam Festival, including this work, was reviewed by Elizabeth Kerr for her blog Five Lines.

The Adam Festival: chamber music heaven — Five Lines