When Warren Dawson named his rural Western Bay of Plenty property, he had no idea what a “bizarre” and extraordinary journey he had embarked on.
Dawson owns a subdivision at the end of Omanawa Rd. In 2006, he named it Sarona Park in honour of his grandfather who fought in World War I as part of the New Zealand Mounted Rifle Brigade.
Dawson’s grandfather was put on placement in the Middle East, where Israel is now, camped out at a place named Sarona, “and he was really taken with it”.
“When he came home he called his farm Sarona and from that time on we’ve always called our farms Sarona. So when it came to the subdivision, of course, we called it Sarona. It seemed fitting.”
Dawson thought no more of the name until two weeks ago when an Israeli man and his wife got lost looking for the Kaimai Cafe. They ended up driving to Dawson’s home when they spotted the name.
“They were very curious about the name and how it came about. He said he was from Israel and pretty interested.”
The man, Yossi, told Dawson that also in 2006, Israeli authorities sealed off the piece of land his grandfather had camped out in and built roads, parks and buildings – also naming it Sarona Park.
Yossi explained how revered New Zealand soldiers were in Israel, especially in the Ayun Kara where he is from, nearby to Sarona.
Just last year a Tauranga contingent, including deputy mayor Kelvin Clout, unveiled a memorial to the soldiers who died in the nearby Battle of Ayun Kara which Dawson’s grandfather fought in during his campaign.