Keen interest in farmer-inspired book
Residents of the Fernhill and Kuripapango district trace their history
A book being written in Hawke’s Bay documenting centuries of history in the farming district between Fernhill and Kuripapango is attracting plenty of local interest.
Research, photos and writing for West to the Annie – The legacy of Renata Kawepo, is being done by the RD9 Historical Trust – made up mainly of farmers living in the district and Maori historian Patrick Parsons, who is writing chapters on pre-European activity in the district.
Co-ordinator David Hildreth said the idea was discussed between residents nearly two years ago, and a lot of time and effort had since been spent researching old family letters and documents and looking through records kept by local authorities.
Few local history books included information on Maori history prior to European settlement, and doing so was a big responsibility Mr Hildreth said.
Initial chapters would be based on the actions of people like Renata Kawepo, whose iwi were driven out of the area prior to the arrival of Europeans.
They later managed to repatriate the area, and Kawepo was instrumental in having much of the district allocated to his iwi through the Maori Land Court. Names of settlements like Okawa, Pukehamoamoa, Matapiro and Otamauri have remained the same since.
When sheepfarming began in the district in the mid to late-1800s, wool was the only source of income for farmers, as refrigerated shipping hadn’t been invented and there was little or no market for meat. Farmers had to clear land and pay for the costs of building their own roads to markets, hence the land was of relatively low value.
Stations in the area, some of which are now owned by descendants of those who first bought them, were commonly 10,000ha or more in size, and at one stage there were four hotels on the road west of Fernhill, including an upmarket lodge at Kuripapango.
Land that was part of the original Tuna Nui Station at Sherenden, is now owned by over 100 people.
Detailed and accurate records had been found and recorded, and information that wouldn’t make it into the book, would be archived for future use.
Some records had been destroyed in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake, and the trust was encouraging anyone with old letters, photos or items of human interest relevant to the area, to contribute them. The trust hoped to have the book completed before the end of the year, and were pre-selling them as well as looking for sponsorship to help cover a budget exceeding $100,000.
The project has had letters of endorsement from the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the Historical Places Trust, EIT Hawke’s Bay and individuals including Omahu Marae kaumatua Bill Hakiwai, who said Maori occupation of districts prior to European settlement was often overlooked in such books.
“I note that even in the title, West to the Annie – The Legacy of Renata Kawepo – our two cultures sit side by side. To me it makes the book more authentic and I look forward to seeing the history in its complete form.”
Photo caption – THIS “upmarket” lodge at Kuripapango was one of four hotels on the road west of Fernhill.