Keeping memories alive

Octogenarian Treasure Christie, nee Austin, has shared many anecdotal memoirs of life growing up in the wild Western Southland farming area of Wakapatu in her book Wakapatu and its secrets. Photo: Dayle Wright

THE desire to capture the stories of generations past for the sake of the future motivated Treasure (Tess) Christie to write childhood memories of growing up in Wakapatu near Colac

‘‘There’s not many of us oldies left now from Wakapatu.’’

She had always wanted to write a book and if she didn’t write the stories down they would be lost.

‘‘I wrote it not like a history book, but like a book anyone could read because each little story was different.’’

With Riverton being one of the nation’s founding towns, the areas surrounding the town were rich with history.

‘‘I’m amazed at how many people didn’t know where Wakapatu was.

‘‘There’s a lovely beach where people will go out to walk on the beach and watch the sun set and go fishing.’’

She remembers the remote farming district being home to about 10 farms that were initially relatively isolated because of the lack of good roads.

Her parents ventured on a mammoth journey from Lower Hutt by train to start life in the little community.

It has been several decades since Mrs Christie, nee Austin, lived in the region with her four other siblings, but the memories are still strong of what life was like.

The green pastures we see now were covered in bush.

‘‘It was all bush and mud. They had to carve out their farms and cut the trees down and work the soil.

‘‘Granddad worked two shifts at the sawmill between milking cows. Mum didn’t know when he slept because he seemed to be working all the time.’’

While people were carving out a living from the land to make a future in farming, the Round Hill gold mine was in full swing as one of the region’s largest employers, next to the railway employees who were breaking new ground, growing the Southland rail network.

Walking everywhere was normal. So was cooking on camp ovens and boiling water for cooking and washing.

She has tried to keep the stories light and entertaining so people can enjoy the journey her and her four siblings lived.

Cars were for the ‘‘rich people’’.

Her father even spent a season working on the Sydney Harbour Bridge construction before he was married. But a chance meeting with her mum in Wakapatu motivated him to rethink his next steps.

‘‘It was real olden days when they first went there.’’

As direct descendants of Chief Te Koeti and the Ngai Tahu tribe, the family’s footprints have been left in many parts of New Zealand’s history.

Brother Rex served as the Awarua Member of Parliament for 12 years and was awarded a QSM and MBE.

It was her brother who reminded her no-one had cups to drink from — tins were used instead.

After a year and a half of writing out her book by hand, Mrs Christie’s entertaining anecdotal memoirs have been preserved on the 200 pages of print for present and future generations to appreciate the work and hardships of the pioneers.

The book’s release has been timed to coincide with another 80-plus birthday on July 22. She has almost pre-sold all of the book’s first print run, and if interest demanded, it was possible to increase the quantity.

Mrs Christie has already considered some places to donate copies to ensure the stories will be saved.

Anyone interested in buying a book can leave contact details for Mrs Christie at the Southland Express office at 5 The Crescent, Invercargill.