Marnie Anstis was born in the shadow of Taranaki in the early 1950’s. When she was five, her family moved to the Waikato where she attended Tahuna Primary School followed by Morrinsville College. Leaving school at 15, she spent the next nine years working on a family farm in the hills behind Opotiki in the Bay of Plenty.

“I was in my element exploring this new environment: the dense dark bush that layered the slopes, the trickling waterfalls, the rushing streams, the wide open view from hilltops – but most of all I treasured the isolation.
Mustering sheep and cattle, often barefoot-in-bikini, I lived a carefree existence. Fleeco-ing, pressing wool, scrub-cutting, fencing: all hands-on, practical hard work involving blood, sweat and blisters. I spent hours droving stock on horseback, and swore (not only at dogs) never to milk cows or go market-gardening.”

But love changed her outlook. She married Peter, who just happened to be a local dairy farmer.

“We milked cows while, of all things, diversifying into horticulture: growing passionfruit, tamarillos, and ultimately, kiwifruit, while raising our four sons.
Swapping procreation for pro-creativity, I developed an extensive garden. And I started to write…
As the boys grew older, my surprisingly green thumbs twiddled their way ever deeper into kiwifruit canopies and 30-odd years later, the initial six hectares had increased fivefold. Our employment of local people had also increased fivefold, and their assistance over the years is greatly appreciated. This book is really for them.”

Marnie and Peter still live near the Hukutaia Domain – a place where Peter used to play as a boy, as did his father before him, and where Marnie used to take their youngsters to see the 2000 year-old burial tree.

“It always fascinated me that this tree was a seedling when Christ was born.”

The idea for writing this story came in a sleepless night in August 1998 while Marnie pondered how Opotiki could celebrate Year 2000. That was when she realised her community had its very own millennium icon!
“Ironically, in spite of my intense dislike of history at school, researching, and then writing the historical aspects of this book was a task I thoroughly enjoyed, and in doing so, it brought to mind some clichés and quotes –

  • We don’t know who we are or where we’re going, until we know where we have come from.
  • No man is an island. Whether we acknowledge it or not, all of us have been affected by many events that have happened on the far side of the world.
  • A strong trunk to support many leaves. A strong society supports all people.

History books of closely-typed text are not necessarily read by everyone, and I hope this interactive book – with subtleties to be found within the language and layout – will be enjoyable and thought-provoking for many adults as well as children.
And as I look back on my own history, it just goes to show – we can adapt, we can change.”

Marnie – December 2011

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