A new book tracing the stories of Matakanui Station has been more than 40 years in the making.
Donald Gordon, a former chemist who worked at Speight’s Brewery in Dunedin for nearly 50 years, began interviewing people who had connections to Matakanui Station in the 1970s.
By the time he died in 2013, he had created a 600-page manuscript.
With permission from Mr Gordon before he died, friends Martin Paterson, of Wanaka, and Ross Naylor, of Matakanui, took on the responsibility of completing the book.
Mr Paterson’s family has owned Matakanui Station since the 1950s, and he ran the station until retiring to Wanaka in about 2012.
Mr Naylor runs the neighbouring Spennymoor Station, which used to be part of Matakanui Station.
As well as using Mr Gordon’s research, the book included photographs and more current information to bring the story up to date, Mr Naylor said.
“Don didn’t pull any punches. There are some really interesting stories in there.” – Martin Paterson
The book was a “very in-depth history” of Matakanui Station and the surrounding district, beginning with pre-European Maori history in the region and continuing until the early 2000s.
Mr Gordon was able to capture stories from local people before they died, ensuring a unique record of the area was preserved.
“I’m 62, and I can remember him interviewing my great-uncle and grandfather here on the farm,” Mr Naylor said.
“It is quite precious to me, because my son works here with me and he is a sixth generation on this property here.”
Mr Paterson said about a third of the book was about Matakanui Station and two-thirds was about the district history.
“This is the most comprehensive history of the Manuherikia Valley ever written.”
The book had chapters on subdivisions including Tiger Hill and Spottis Creek, services such as beekeepers, blacksmiths and the Ophir Flour Mill, and townships such as Chatto Creek, Drybread and Omakau.
“Ross and I really decided it just had to be published, we just couldn’t leave it sitting idle.”
The book included some controversies and surprising stories, including one of a horse being ridden into a pub and one of an early rabbiter who was also “the district’s only known streaker”.
“Don didn’t pull any punches. There are some really interesting stories in there,” Mr Paterson said.
Mr Gordon interviewed hundreds of people for the book, despite being “very shy”.
“He was very meticulous in his detail – he kept on coming back to the families with typed copies to check.”
“He wanted to get it as factually correct as he could”.
Alexandra’s Central Stories Museum research co-ordinator Rachel Taylor said the book provided an “invaluable history” of the region.
“It is so comprehensive, it has got everything from sports, the gun club, racing, motels, engineering.”
“It is a lovely resource,” she said.