Book Review: The Hauraki Gulf: An Iconic Kiwi Playground, by Jane King

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_hauraki_gulf.jpgThe Hauraki Gulf is a stretch of water east of Auckland, dotted with a unique array of islands treasured by those who live there and nearby. Author Jane King explores these islands and surrounds in her book The Hauraki Gulf, as a celebration of the area’s unique geographical landscapes, natural beauty and resources.

The land and sea is beloved by locals, but many of these islands will be unknown to New Zealanders. The Hauraki Gulf is an easy and visual way to get to know the islands, the people who live there and how the island is used now. New Zealanders will also enjoy the stories of ‘how it used to be’, bringing back memories of growing up in small town New Zealand.

The book touches on a brief history of each island as a chapter, exploring current use and conservation as well as reflecting on early years. Islands featured include Great and Little Barrier Island, bird sanctuary Tiritiri Matangi Island, Rangitoto, Waiheke Island, as well as the lesser known Motuihe, Rotoroa and Pakatoa islands. The book is pictorial with large colour photos throughout, highlighting the islands and people then and now.

Local people share personal and historical yarns about the land, people and events in The Hauraki Gulf. These short, local insights are fun to read and great to have documented, even if you wonder if the yarns haven’t grown larger and more colourful over time.

One of my favourites is the local legend of early emergency flights to Great Barrier Island. Back in the 1980s, a pilot would volunteer to fly to Great Barrier Island to pick up injured or sick locals to take them to the mainland. It was dangerous, as the island was pitch black with no electricity supply and it was difficult to locate the airfield with no lights to guide the pilot. The airfield was just a paddock and often boggy, and emergencies often happened at night. At one point, locals were rounded up to drive their cars to the airfield where they would park their cars in two straight lines, opposite one another, to create a runway by headlights. You feel such things can only happen in small town New Zealand.

This is a nice coffee table book, easy to read and touching on many features of the islands and people. A visual map showing the Hauraki Gulf and the location of the islands featured in the book would have been a nice addition.

Reviewed by Amie Lightbourne

The Hauraki Gulf
by Jane King
Published by David Bateman
ISBN 9781869539504

Book Review: Island Nurses, by Leonie Howie & Adele Robertson

Available now in bookshops nationwide.

cv_island_nursesLeonie Howie and Adele Robertson live and work on remote Great Barrier Island – so called because it faces the full brunt of the wild Pacific weather and acts as a barrier for the mainland about 100 kilometres away. With a population of about 1000, no reticulated electricity, no ATM machine, no street lights and one pub, it is a wildly beautiful place. It has a long history of farming, whaling and fishing, and the people who live here are a resilient lot, proud of their community.

Howie is married to the doctor on the island, and their younger children sometimes attended consultations, including births, although they were generally asleep in the car.
Midwifery and nursing on a remote island bring a wide range of dramas and emergencies, and Howie and Robertson share the islanders’ stories-sometimes tragic, sometimes happy, sometimes funny-from over 30 years of challenging yet uplifting work.

In the early days, Dr Howie worked from an old building on the southern end of the island and in the public health nurses’ cottage in the north, travelling by motorbike and then in a second-hand Holden sedan. ‘On Wednesday they drove in Ivan’s iconic and durable light blue Holden HQ up north to the nurse’s cottage in Port FitzRoy for the northern clinic. At this time, in the mid-eighties it took just under an hour to reach Adele’s clinic.’

Clinics were also held in a caravan on the couple’s front lawn, and in their lounge, before Dr Howie encouraged the locals to form a community trust which built the islands medical centre.

A map at the beginning of the book is a great asset and I found myself referring to it as I was reading the book. The collection of photographs also complements the text and I loved the cover design, the fresh faced nurse’s smiles inviting the reader to open the book and read their story.

This memoir is the first book the pair has written and it highlights just how a small community supports itself and the people living there. It will be of interest to anyone interested in health services and who enjoys a life away from city living.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Island Nurses: Stories of Birth, Life and Death on Remote Great Barrier Island
by Leonie Howie & Adele Robertson
Published by Allen & Unwin
ISBN 9781877505843