Writers' Trail ~ Nelson/Tasman
A CHAIR ON THE MAITAI RIVER BANK HONOURS THE WRITER
In May 2011 the Top of the South (TOS) branch of NZ Society of Authors dedicated a chair on the banks of the Maitai River in Nelson City to honour the group’s most distinguished member, Maurice Gee.
Born in Whakatane in 1931, Gee has written more than 30 novels, several of which have become films. His works’ realistic descriptions of a sometimes dysfunctional small-town New Zealand society have earned Gee numerous accolades and awards. He lived in Nelson in the 1980s and returned here in 2007.
The TOS branch commissioned the high-backed, armed chair, which was hand crafted from macrocarpa by Tony Nightingale of Y-Not Furniture. Nelson City Council (NCC) agreed to the chair being installed under a dogwood tree on the banks of the Maitai as a work of art.
The chair sits beside the path where Gee and his wife Margaretha walk most days. At his request, it is angled to face towards the Centre of New Zealand.
The plaque bears a quote from Gee’s 2001 novel Ellie and the Shadow Man: ‘The plane made a wide curve, banking so Ellie looked into the mudflats, then righted itself; and she saw the black Doubles and the yellow Dun and thought, I’m home.’
The chair’s unveiling on 28 May followed the branch’s 2011 AGM, where Maurice Gee was guest speaker. A large group assembled to watch Gee cut the red ribbon tied around the chair and toast him in sparkling grape juice.
In his written thanks to the branch Maurice Gee said: ‘I had my doubts about being brought into the open and faced with cameras etc, but now that it is all done, the seat installed, the talk given, the ribbon cut, the cameras put away, I find myself looking back on the occasion with pleasure, and looking forward to passing my seat on the river bank from time to time, and sitting in it for a rest and a little quiet contemplation. I'm pleased that my books have been read and enjoyed and that they and I have received this recognition, in such well-crafted form, from my fellow writers.’
In March 2015 a small plaque engraved with a QR code was attached to the arm of the chair, so that passers by with smartphones can easily find out more about it.
February 2020 saw the chair removed for resurfacing and repair of a small amount of rot in one leg. It was uplifted by NCC and taken to Nelson MenzShed, but the work was delayed by the Covid-19 lockdown. On 23 July 2020 a celebration took place to mark the reinstatement of the refurbished chair.
Later that year the path was moved nearer the river, leaving the chair in a quieter spot.
Written by: Chrissie Ward
Read more about Maurice Gee here
The chair is situated on the river path just downstream from the Aratuna/Normanby Bridge on Bridge Street. It is near the millennium sculpture 'High Flyers' by Grant Palliser.