This Sunday (24 November) sees the launch of a major new book entitled Wairarapa Moana: The Lake and Its People at the ANZAC Hall, Featherston. The project originated around three years ago when the Wairarapa Moana Incorporation had conversations about a book with the Wairarapa Archive and, with Aratoi, about an exhibition.
The book brings together essays by 13 contributors focussing on aspects of 150 years of Lake history, delving into Maori mythology as well as present day environmental problems. There are over 250 accompanying photographs, paintings, maps and diagrams.
General editor Ian F. Grant, of Fraser Books, Masterton, says the process of compiling this ambitious book was "a bit like herding cats, at times, but the reward was meeting and getting to know many new people, all specialists in their fields, which was really interesting."
Contributors included Haami Te Whaiti, Murray Hemi, John Rhodes and Bruce Stirling, many of whom had been involved in the Aratoi exhibition and accompanying events. Some of the aspects covered are the area’s archaeology and shaping of the landscape; the control of water in Wairarapa Moana’s complex of lakes, rivers and wetlands; the diverse and sometimes rare fauna and flora; and the clashes between European farming and Maori cultural values.
Much detail is given to the Maori gifting of Lake Wairarapa to the Crown in 1896 – also a central theme in the exhibition. The subsequent trail of broken promises and deceit is described, as is the final triumph of the iwi's successful development of the Pouākani lands in the Waikato - a story little known outside Wairarapa.
"As with previous collaborations with the Wairarapa Archive, our philosophy was to make the book as complete and definitive as possible, conscious that there is unlikely to be another book of this depth for many years," says Ian. "As with all our books, we try to go the extra mile.
" Ian Grant is the author of a number of New Zealand histories, and he and wife Diane published Sonja Davies' Bread & Roses, and Grant Redvers' Tara Arctic: A New Zealander's Epic Voyage, which won the Australasian non-fiction section in the last year's Independent Publisher Book Awards. Grant runs his independent publishing business Fraser Books with Diane, and they have published over 150 books over the last 20 or so years. With this book, the couple has also continued a productive association with Wairarapa Archive, which stretches back nearly 15 years.
The project received support from Wairarapa Moana Incorporated, Wellington Regional Council, LandsTrust, Trust House and Eastern & Central Community Trust. The book was designed by Michael Holmes of Catch Graphics, Featherston.