Tiny Metzger – 80th Birthday

On Sunday 2 September, one of our renowned and much loved Bluff kaumātua, Tiny Metzger, celebrated his 80th birthday with an informal lunch at Te Rau Aroha.
Tiny is the eldest of two children born to Nicholas ‘The Fox’ Metzger and his wife Mouru/Caroline (née Haberfield).

Nicholas was a great-grandson of Joseph Metzger and his wife Ernestine (née Radka), respectively German and Polish immigrants to Southland. Joseph Metzger was a prominent citizen and established Bluff’s Bay View Hotel in 1890. The remains of the family’s residence, ‘Rosenberg’, is immediately west of our marae complex.

Tiny’s mother Mouru was the eldest of three children born to William Isaac Haberfield (II) and his wife Frances (née Bailey, formerly Spencer).

William’s father, John Kerle Haberfield, was born at Moeraki to Meriana Teitei and William Isaac Habefield. John and his wife Elizabeth ‘Noki’ (née Honor, formerly Newton), who was born on Whenua Hou, were married by the Rev. Wohlers of the Ruapuke Mission and lived in the New River/Omaui/Greenhills area.

Born Nicholas Graham, legend has it that Tiny was over six foot tall in standard six, hence the nickname that has stuck with him ever since.

Left to right, Tiny, Mouru, Nick and Gary Metzger, c. 1943-44.

Tiny spent a significant part of his childhood years at Greenhills, the small rural settlement adjacent to the Bluff Road, in the upper reaches of Bluff Harbour. This is not far from Ōmaui and the Mokamoka estuary, important ancestral places that he describes as his childhood playground. Although his pōua, William, passed away on the eve of Tiny’s fourth birthday, he was taught a number of mahika kai traditions by his grandmother, Frances ‘Big Nana’, his uncles John Kerle ‘Boy’ Haberfield, Stewart and George Spencer, and Buku Hemera, and his aunty Koa. It was ‘Big Nana’ who asked that he mahi pōhā be continued on Pikomamaku by whoever birded there; a task that Tiny has committed much of his life to.

Though encouraged by teachers to become an architect, Tiny left secondary school for a carpentering apprenticeship with his uncle George Spencer. In between, he rowed competitively, mainly for the Awarua Boating Club. In 1954, he married Maurine Tinnock, of Invercargill, and they lived there for some years, caring for her father after her mother’s untimely death. Later, they moved to Bluff, into a house that Tiny built. In terms of employment, Tiny worked variously as a boat-builder and a wharfie until the waterfront industry was reorganised and rationalised in the late 1980s.

He and Maurine raised three children; Paul, Robyn, and Barbara.

Tiny and Maurine took all three children muttonbirding, and grandchildren in turn, and now great-grandchildren too.

Tiny has been actively involved with the Waitutu Incorporation since the 1980s. He helped negotiate the Waitutu Block Settlement and led the establishment of a lodge facility on the west bank of the Wairaurahiri River in the late 1990s. He has been consistently involved with Te Rau Aroha Marae since the mid-1990s and has undertaken or overseen a number of building and maintenance projects around the marae in that time.

Maurine, for her part, was one of the tukutuku ‘A-Team’ during the marae refurbishment.

Other than one granddaughter who is currently on a walkabout in South America, Tiny’s 80th birthday brought all four generations of his living immediate family together, which was a thrill for both he and Maurine. They were also grateful that Kirsten, the pōtiki of his late brother Gary, and her husband John were able to make the lunch.

A few of Tiny’s veritable whāngai from Te Rau Aroha also joined the family for lunch, as did the kitchen’s mainstay cooks, who all do so much to uphold the mana of our marae. It goes without saying that in terms of kind and quantity, the food was what people expect when they come to Bluff for a kai. All the same, it was a quiet, understated affair, and thus a fitting way to mark an important milestone for someone who likes to ‘just quietly dodge along’.

Hari huritau ki a Pōua ‘Iti’. Mauri ora!

In the middle: Tiny and Maurine surrounded by whānau.