Paula Harris Obituary, Found Dead – Paula Justine Harris, a 49-year-old woman from Palmerston North, was tragically found deceased on Waitārere Beach in Horowhenua. The discovery of her body occurred on Monday at around 4:30 pm, following her last sighting on June 22 at approximately 9:30 pm. The local authorities have identified her and confirmed that her death is not being treated as suspicious. The case has been referred to the Coroner for further investigation and determination of the cause of death.
Paula Justine Harris was a talented poet who gained attention in 2020 when she decided to auction off her experience with depression on Trade Me, a popular online marketplace in New Zealand. The auction listing included a certificate of ownership, tissues, a recipe for chocolate brownies, and a DVD of the movie Schindler’s List. She explained that the DVD served as a booster and companion for depression, as watching it evoked emotions that allowed her to feel a sense of shared misery.
In recognition of her poetic abilities, Harris received the New Zealand Society of Authors Lilian Ida Smith Award in 2018. Despite not having a formal degree, she studied poetry at Victoria University, showcasing her dedication and passion for her craft. Her remarkable talent was further acknowledged when she won the 2018 Janet B. McCabe Poetry Prize and the 2017 Lilian Ida Smith Award. She also reached the semifinals for the prestigious 92Y Discovery Poetry Prize in 2020 and was granted a writing residency at the Vermont Studio Center in 2018.
Harris’s literary work was featured in various publications, including The Spinoff, Passages North, and the New Ohio Review. Her poems resonated with readers, touching upon themes of introspection, emotions, and the human experience. Through her writing, she had the ability to capture profound moments of vulnerability and translate them into evocative verses that left a lasting impact on her audience.
In addition to her artistic endeavors, Harris had a connection to the local community. Following her disappearance, search and rescue operations were conducted by the Manawatū River, leading to the discovery of items belonging to her. The police, at the time, appealed to the public for any information they might have had regarding her disappearance. Despite these efforts, the investigation did not yield any further leads.
During this time, a rāhui—a customary Māori prohibition or restriction—was placed on the beach. The rāhui, spanning from the Wairarawa Stream (located to the right of the main Waitārere Beach entrance) to the mouth of the Manawatū River, was in effect until July 15. The purpose of the rāhui is to acknowledge and respect the deceased, as well as to allow time for mourning and healing within the community.
The passing of Paula Justine Harris is a loss not only for her loved ones but also for the literary community in New Zealand. Her talent and unique perspective brought depth and richness to her poetry, allowing readers to connect with her words on a profound level. Her legacy will live on through her writings, which will continue to inspire and touch the hearts of those who encounter them.