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Special Interest Forums => The Bookworm => Topic started by: Kiwithrottlejockey on August 08, 2009, 04:41:00 pm

Title: Tales of Haast and the Waiatoto ENZED's last wild frontier
Post by: Kiwithrottlejockey on August 08, 2009, 04:41:00 pm

Book explores history, people, places

Tales of Haast and the Waiatoto

By JOHN EDENS in Alexandra - The Southland Times | 5:00AM - Friday, 07 August 2009


            THE AUTHOR: John Breen at the terminal lake of the Volta and Therma glaciers. TREVOR BREEN.

In 1988, Alexandra-based contractor John Breen scribbled his first notes for a book about the social history of the Haast region and the Waiatoto River.

The fruit of his labours, River of Blood: Tales of the Waiatoto, was launched yesterday, 20 years after that first spark of an idea.

Mr Breen, 66, is a contractor, quantity surveyor, hunter, skier and fisherman.

The book, his first, explores the pioneering history, people and places of South Westland's Haast district and the Waiatoto River, a region Mr Breen has been returning to for 30 years.

The region's residents provided the book's focus, a social history of South Westland, its rugged terrain and atrocious weather, Mr Breen said. "The whole bloody lot of them are interesting characters because of where they live. It's an in-your-face place and you have to confront it."

Mr Breen was introduced to Haast and the West Coast in 1977 through his work as a contractor for the family business, Breen Construction Company in Alexandra.

It can get so wet out west that hair on the backs of cattle sometimes rots, he said.

"It's still a frontier place and a difficult place to make a living.

"The Waiatoto is a marginal place. Once you get past Haast it's really just coastline to Southland."

Mr Breen said he considers the Haast region, Southern Westland, Stewart Island and the Chatham Islands to be the last remaining wilds of New Zealand.

River of Blood: Tales of the Waiatoto, published by Dunedin-based Longacre Press, was launched at Central Stories Museum and Art Gallery in Alexandra.