Rich book on local history
ROSE HARDING reviews a historical book put together by 13 authors.
West to the Annie, Renata Kawepo’s Hawke’s Bay Legacy (CHB Press, $69.95)
About two years ago a group of residents of the area covered by the RD 9 area west of Hastings decided it was time to put the history of the area down on paper.
The result is a 400-page, richly illustrated work called West to the Annie, Renata Kawepo’s Hawke’s Bay Legacy.
The book is the story of the area between the Tutaekuri River to the north and the Ngaruroro River to the south from Gunn’s Bridge just to the west of the Omahu village to the Gentle Annie hill in the Kaweka Range at Kuripapango.
Although much of the land at the western end of the book is now in bush or forestry, it was at one stage farmed by the pioneers and supported hotels and a coachtrade.
Renata Kawepo was the Maori leader who had been captured during one of the frequent raids on the area by outside tribes in the early 1800s. He was taken north by Ngapuhi and educated at a Waimate North mission school before returning to Hawke’s Bay with William Colenso in 1844. Kawepo was eager to see his people return to gain what he saw as the benefits of pakeha settlement of the Heretaunga lands.
Ngai Upokoiri and Ngati Hinemanu people then slowly trickled home from exile and by 1855, the village of Omahu was taking shape.
By 1858 Kawepo was emerging as paramount chief and began to organise sales of land to the pakeha in a way that his people were not cheated. He was held in high esteem by Maori and pakeha and later, was regarded as paramount chief of the Heretaunga Maori.
West to the Annie covers everything from the geological pre-history to events earlier this year and includes farm settlements, road building, schools and social clubs.
Its 18 chapters have 13 different writers who formed the RD9 Historical Trust, the committee which pulled the book together from many different threads.
The committee made the inspired and responsible decision to carefully archive all the material they gathered for the book, used or not, so it would be available to anyone needing it for research.
Many of the committee members are descendants of the first European settlers still on the land their ancestors settled in the mid to late 1880s. They wrote the chapters on each of the eight original stations.
Hawke’s Bay Maori history specialist Patrick Parsons wrote the chapters on pre-European history and early European settlement, long-time resident Nola McAulay wrote about religious observance, service and sports clubs, and Linda Ward from Waiwhare wrote about the area’s many schools.
Frances Shotter, another long-time resident, wrote about the Crownthorpe area, its creation from adjoining stations and its subsequent subdivision and settlement for returning soldiers.
It is a novel idea for the pioneers’ direct descendants to write about their farms and families, which they have done with much enthusiasm and varying degrees of skill.
It is clear that some of them had far more material to work from than others.
The Russell family of Tuna Nui must have been hoarders because their story is more detailed than the others. Earthquake, fire and earlier carelessness have left gaps in other histories.
Few other regions in New Zealand could have so many original families living and farming on the land settled by their ancestors.
At the end of each chapter on the eight original stations is a very novel “land tree” to illustrate how each big holding has been subdivided and sold. Somehow the committee has managed to find out who owns or has owned every last bit of it, down to the lifestyle blocks.
It makes each chapter easier to understand and perhaps demonstrates better than anything just how huge those original blocks of land were.
Although the author of each chapter is named in the Contents at the beginning of the book, it would have been helpful to the reader to repeat the name at the beginning of each chapter.
The book had overall editorial supervision to ensure consistency of format and chapter length, but it would have benefited from a thorough proof-read.
That would have picked up such irritations as Lawrence Higgins being Laurence Higgins on the same page, Lucy Falkiner’s mother being Mrs Falkner in the same line and dates being in different formats in the same and different chapters.
It also suffers from a surfeit of quotation marks around names in some of the chapters.
However, it should also be remembered that the book is written by amateurs doing it as a social service for future generations. For this and the overall quality and value of the book the RD9 committee should be congratulated.
The book is a worthy addition to the library of anyone interested in the development and history of Hawke’s Bay. At $69.95 in bookshops it might seem a little pricey. However, it is a book to be picked up repeatedly and dipped into. It is also a book for the future and will be a valuable reference work. The book is available by mail order from Touchwood Books at $59.95 plus $5 p and p.