‘Community hub’ faces closure

There’s not a lot in Tiniroto. The small town lies on the ‘inland’ road between Gisborne and Wairoa and consists of a few houses, a school and the historic Tiniroto Tavern, which has operated in various forms since the 1880s. However, now that the current operators have left and the building is on the market, this small North Island town could be without the centre of its community.

Current owners Robbie and Teresa Dale, who purchased the tavern and its chattels just over two years ago, chose to put the property on the market after the current operators decided not to continue. The future of the tavern will depend entirely on the intentions of the new buyers, but locals hope that the legacy is continued.

“It’s absolutely a community hub,” said tavern regular Greg Law. “It is our post office as well. The Gisborne Herald drops off the mailbags and newspapers for lots of Tiniroto residents. Obviously, you’d have a couple of beers and chat while you were there.”

Law has more connection than most to the Tiniroto tavern – his great-grandfather used to run it, and Law is a third-generation farmer of local land. “The road through here used to be the main road. I think stagecoaches used to come this way. The building was a proper hotel for wayfarers.”

Situated in such a rural area, the tavern has more functions than simply serving food and drinks. It serves as the post office, the civil defence centre and has also been used as an emergency shelter for unprepared tourists.

“We had a really heavy snow event happen a few years ago and the road through the Whareratas was closed,” said Law. “People tried to get over the Tiniroto hill above the tavern and most got stuck in the snow, or decided it was too dangerous, turned around and parked up at the tavern. We had about 30 odd people who in the dark of night had nowhere to go. The floor at the tavern had mattresses and blankets everywhere, with the fire blazing — it was quite a sight.”

The tavern also became the site of community discussions – particularly Fridays.

“You would have these discussion groups where fencers or shearers and their managers would hold a bit of a forum. The tavern was a level playing field.”

“We’ll miss it, but we still might get it back again,” Law said. “Fingers crossed someone will buy it and make it permanent.”