Mokai – meaning servant, captive or slave in maori, is a small place located approximately 30 km north west of Taupo. It’s better known for its geothermal Power Station and lush farmlands than a holiday destination.

I found out about Mokia solely by chance after selling a cellphone on trademe.

The lady who brought the phone came into our framing gallery to pick it up and while she was there she noticed one of my photos hanging on the wall. It was of an old house just out of Taihape. It turned out that that house was her grandparents. So that lead into a great conversation about her experiences growing up there and how the photo came to be.

As we talked, she became aware of my love of the countryside and my love of photographing old farmhouses and abandoned machinery. In fact she was probably thinking. “You sound like a Mokai to it.” And she’d be right. Because I absolutely love it. It’s my shameless, blissful addiction. She then told me. “You need to go to Mokai.” Mokia was another place that was apart of her upbringing and the buildings there were apparently in a similar state of disrepair as the photo of her grandparents old house.

From what she’d told me and from what i had seen on Google Maps, I couldn’t wait to go there.

This is old Mokai. Photo taken in 1963 by Pimian

Mokai 1963

So off I went.

Of course I was presented with other finds along the way that i just couldn’t drive by or through without stopping to take a shot.

Mokai Muster Home Sweat Home2 New Zealand Farmlands
Welcome to Mokai today

Literality blink and your’d miss it. The road that is shown running through the township in the 1963 photo appears to have been moved further away and that land reclaimed.Welcome to Mokai


This building below may have been the local service station. Another photo i found of this building showed it had a petrol pump standing out front. It was so disappointing to find it had gone.

Mokai's Service StationOut the back it had an old tractor and various bites of machinery. Maybe they were there for repairs? Stiff out of luck by the looks of things.
Mokai Out BackMokai Out Back2A lot of the buildings had obviously been removed or destroyed making way for more productive farmland and there was a big gap between these and the next remaining structure. This one was being eaten alive by vines.
Succumbing to Nature Mokai Eaten Alive Have A Look CockAnd then around back.
Mokai TruckResting Mokai2 Resting MokaiAND THAT IS MOKAI


2 thoughts on “Mokai”

  1. Sounds like another Mokai lover! A friend asked me if I had ever been to Mokai to draw. This ws in 1978 and I took photos of the remains of the street, the petrol station and two close buildings. I paid a “custodian” $5 to go into the field that was once the main street took some photos. The paintings I did from those photos are somewhere in Oz as they were a wedding present. I have photos of them unframed. Went back in 2011 to see the petrol station etc, an empty fields where the street was once.. in the last month I was reminded of 1978 when my son asked if I had anything of the visit. He was about 5yo then and is now a lecturer in art at a Dubal university. He has a set of the material I collected now and I am in the midst of using my photos as a basis of making a wee journal using only art material from my open air backbpack. Thank you so much for your story, it sounds familiar to me!!

    1. Lewis, I’m happy you found my experience of Mokai here and pleased it brought back memories of your visit too. Yes, I love these small fading parts of New Zealand and enjoy documenting them whenever I can. They have an aura about them I find compelling. Thank you for the feedback, I do very much appreciate It and I wish you all the best with the journal, it will be an interesting read I’m sure. Stay safe!

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