Garth Eyles chats to Mark Story after this week's launch of his book, Pekapeka Swamp – A Story of Survival
What was the spark for writing the book?
There was a huge amount of information about the history of Pekapeka in Hawke's Bay
Regional Council and Department of Conservation files and in people's memories. We
decided it would be a great idea to bring all this together and present it in a very readable
This was the third book in a series bringing together information on the council's regional parks. The first was about Pakowhai Country Park, the second, A Short History of Tutira Country Park, and this one Pekapeka Swamp – A Story of Survival. A fourth book tracing the development of Waitangi Estuary will complete the series.
How has Pekapeka gone from wasteland to icon in such a short time?
Pekapeka is a classic example of what can be achieved when careful and detailed planning
lays the groundwork for action so funders have sufficient confidence to become involved
and iwi and community groups are keen to participate. Long term planning, consistent
funding and community participation all coming together works wonders.
A "swamp", "bog" or "marsh" are all hard to market - how does one get people excited about it?
We don't need to market this development. Everyone knows Pekapeka! Most Hawke's
Bay-ites remember the days when it stank during summer. The change from willow forest to open waters and raupo during the last 15 years has been enough to interest and excite most people. The plantings by school groups, community groups (especially the Hastings Branch of Forest & Bird) have involved many people who become excited once they are involved.
What's the least known fact about Pekapeka?
That the whole of the central interpretation area was a rubbish dump of concrete and steel to a depth of nearly 3 metres. This rubble is now almost all covered with a couple of metres of soil into which 18,000 native plants have been planted, walking tracks created and a viewing platform built. Most of this rubbish came from the destruction of one or more hotels in Hastings. However, when researching for the book I could find no one who knew exactly where it came from. A strange mystery or convenient loss of memory?
Describe your ideal vision of Pekapeka in 100 years' time.
I like to think that the development will continue so that in 100 years the swamp will
be a dramatic entrance to the Heretaunga plains. And that the Hawke's Bay people believe
they "own" the swamp and, therefore, will still be looking after it. The Hawke's Bay
pathways will incorporate Pekapeka into these trails from Bay View to Waipukurau. The
swamp will comprise a mosaic of open water areas with native forest margins, walking
tracks around the margins and through parts of the swamp that illustrate particular aspects of interest, and a high quality picnic/ education area. A wide variety of native birds and fish will be living in the swamp while the swamp itself will continue to filter excess nutrients from the waters entering the plains.