‘Rarotonga has changed’

Monday September 23, 2019 Written by Published in Weekend
Goldsbury, right, with best friend Helen Keran, here on holiday this week. 19092010 Goldsbury, right, with best friend Helen Keran, here on holiday this week. 19092010

Raewyn Goldsbury first came to the Cook Islands with her family on the tiny 67-metre passenger ship, the GMV Maui Pomare. It was a long way across the ocean to come on such a small boat, not much more than 1000 tonnes.


But they travelled in some comfort: The Maui Pomare boasted accommodation for 30 passengers in two deluxe two-berth staterooms, eight two-berth cabins and two six-berth cabins.

They arrived Anzac Day 1950, for her dad to take up a posting as chief draughtsman for the New Zealand Survey Department on Rarotonga.

“The day we arrived was April 25, 1950 and they had a parade out here and I remember my mum crying, she was so taken by it.

“Back then there were horses and carts, with metal roads. There were no resorts, it was only the Otera Rarotonga.”

Today, she’s back – but this time she caught a plane.

Known to many as Rae, the 81-year-old counts her blessing of one of the New Zealanders who had a chance to see how Rarotonga was, before the hotels and developments took off.

A lot has changed since then, she says. And now she is back in Rarotonga recalling memories of her childhood.

She recalls the “mail call’ – where the mail would be delivered outside the post office and people from all over the islands would gather to wait, to see what the postal shipment had brought them.

The movie listings were printed, and given out by boys on a moving truck.

“It was black and white movies then,” she remembers.

“Movies were in the nights in various areas around Rarotonga like the Victoria and other smaller movie theatres. On Friday nights we would walk to the movies, but now in New Zealand I would not allow my children to walk in the night.”

She recalls playing what was then known to many as basketball, but we’d now call netball. As a girl she had a pet dog and a pet pig.

The former Avarua Primary School student said they resided in Tupapa, in an old dwelling next door to the Tupapa meeting house.

In her childhood memories, she recalls jumping of the then Avarua wharf, next to where Trader Jacks is now, for a swim.

She recalls going on picnics and more swimming at Muri Beach. “There was nothing else to do,” she laughs.

“I was part of the Girl Guides – ‘I promise in my honour to do my duty to the King’.” These are cherished memories for her.

Her dad was in Rarotonga to teach some young men draughting, and after three years they returned to New Zealand, in 1953.

“I had to go to college and I remember that it was the year the Queen was crowned and Edmund Hilary climbed the mountain.”


Goldsbury came back again.

Excitedly showing an article in a 1982 edition of Cook Islands News, Goldsbury is pictured with her dad Ernest Goldsbury: “That’s when Dad decided we’d come on a plane to visit Rarotonga once again.”

Returning 30 years later was very different: “Father paid for the return flights on the first jumbo,” she says. “I think it was because, I remember they were worried about whether the runway was long enough.”

The November 6, 1982, newspaper tells the story under the tag, “People”.

It was written by Tekura Taumaa headlined: “Rarotonga has changed.”

The front page had a picture of Air New Zealand’s Boeing 747 that landed at Rarotonga Airport on November 5 with 297 passengers.

It was the first such big aircraft to land at the airport, and the journalist noted, the flight arrived 15 minutes early.

Ernest “Goldie” Gooldsbury told the newspaper: “There are so many changes that it’s not the Rarotonga I knew.”

Now, Rae Goldsbury is back on the island again, not a child, not a woman in the prime of life, but travelling with a group of senior citizens on a tour around Rarotonga.


She is here with her best friend Helen Keran whom she met when they were typists, at the age of 16.

They fly out again on Tuesday – but not before featuring again in Cook Islands News.

And as Tekura Taumaa observed in 1982, so too in 2019: “Rarotonga has changed.”

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