Ger­man builder re­calls good times


A touch­ing love story came to light when one of Ti­tahi Bay’s Aus­trian House builders vis­ited his old stomp­ing ground last month.

Ger­man man Hel­mut Mod­lik, 82, left his fi­ancee back home in 1953 to join hun­dreds of other Eu­ro­peans build­ing pre-cut Aus­trian state houses in the Bay.

Mr Mod­lik soon found him­self fully in­volved in the so­cial life at Taka­puwahia pa, at­tend­ing boo­gie woo­gie dances in the old meet­ing hall. He fell in love with a Ngati Toa woman, Haneta (Becky) Arthur.

Break­ing his en­gage­ment, Mr Mod­lik mar­ried Becky and the pair had five chil­dren, in­clud­ing Porirua deputy mayor Liz Kelly.

Life was full of fun and ad­ven­ture in the Bay, Mr Mod­lik said.

Find­ing New Zealand’s six o’clock pub clos­ing tough, many Aus­trian builders bought mo­tor­bikes and raced up and down the Kapiti coast, evad­ing traf­fic po­lice along the way.

‘‘It was a strange coun­try for us. We like a beer,’’ he said.

Mr Mod­lik’s in­volve­ment with Ngati Toa Mor­mons led him on a mis­sion to build a church in Hamil­ton.

Once chil­dren came along, he con­verted a combi van into a car­a­van to take the fam­ily ski­ing.

‘‘I had a lot of fun with the kids,’’ he said.

Years later the Mod­liks split and Mr Mod­lik moved to North­land. Then in 2001 he got an email from the grand-daugh­ter of his for­mer fi­ancee, Jo­hanna Mathauser, won­der­ing what be­came of him. That spurred a re­con­nec­tion be­tween the old flames and he and Jo­hanna have been a cou­ple ever since.

‘‘His life has sort of gone a full cir­cle with his first love,’’ daugh­ter Ms Kelly said.

Mr Mod­lik now spends half the year at Jo­hanna’s home in Aus­tria, and she usu­ally joins him the rest of the year in North­land.

He hardly ever makes it back to Porirua th­ese days, and missed an Aus­trian builder re­union or­gan­ised by kau­matua Mahu Wi­neera in April, so en­joyed a chance to visit the marae last month and rem­i­nisce about the good old days in the Bay.


Last­ing legacy: Ger­man trades­man Hel­mut Mod­lik, right, one of his five chil­dren, deputy mayor Liz Kelly, and kau­matua Mahu Wi­neera at Taka­puwahia marae last month.

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