A new novel about a special time in Kawerau's history is said to have authentic voices which are "a joy to listen to".

A Striking Truth by Helen McNeil looks at the impact of the 1986 Tasman Pulp and Paper strike in Kawerau.

Ms McNeil said the book gave a lot of perspectives on the same event, with five characters and someone writing a diary.

"It made my head pretty busy for a while."


The Tasman Pulp and Paper Mill, opened in the early 1950s by Sir James Fletcher, used to be the major employer in the region.

Ms McNeil is a former psychologist and originally from Kawerau. Though she had moved away by the time of the strikes she often returned to visit family, witnessing the effects they had on the community.

"Tasman used to be like a big family. The mill was owned by the Fletcher family and the son, Hugh Fletcher, went to Stanford and came back globalised.

"He completely changed the culture of the factory which had been started by his father. At the same time this was the days of Rogernomics so politically it was an incredible time in history."

Ms McNeil said it took her about three years to write the novel.

During her research she met with the secretary of the Pulp and Paper Workers Federation, Harold Appleton, and Tasman chief executive at the time, Gary Mace.

"They really wanted to tell their stories and were very generous with their time."

Ms McNeil also talked to friends who were living there at the time and spent a lot of time going over newspaper archives.

Ms McNeil said she would like to see more small towns in New Zealand having a literary voice.

"In England every valley, every little town has its own poet and author. I wanted to write about a specific place."

Unite Union national director Mike Treen said it was a great book.

"I couldn't put it down and devoured it in a single session. The voices heard on these pages have an authenticity that is a joy to listen to.

"The story is about a special time in New Zealand's working-class history that deserves to be remembered and celebrated. This book does that."

A Striking Truth will be launched at the Kawerau library on December 2 from 5.30pm and all are welcome. It is available in bookshops now.