Over the course of Neville Peat's writing career, he has visited many of the islands within Aotearoa’s marine realm, from the tropics to Antarctica. This book is about these special places.
Home is an Island (Potton & Burton) is part memoir, part adventure story, with the conservation of our precious islands at its heart. We asked the author:
What prompted you to write this book?
Offshore islands have loomed large in my working life as a journalist, publicist and adventurer. I’ve loved telling stories about them for print media. Because the Aotearoa New Zealand archipelago ranges from the tropics to Antarctica, I thought I would highlight a selection of them to demonstrate how very different they are from one another in terms of their natural features and their human stories. The title, Home Is An Island, hints at how they can convey deep feelings. Many mainlanders have a river or lake running through their childhood and islands can conjure up a similar sense of belonging. Having written more than 40 books, I thought it was time to write a personal tribute to the essence of islands and how certain ones have touched me.
Why are you drawn to islands? What do you think makes them special?
Their contrasting natures offer windows into what makes our relatively young country so attractive, characterful, innovative and resourceful. Their stories can be strangely different, yet there are often connections, especially when it comes to the all-important subject of nature conservation. In new ways and through new insights, islands can teach us how to tackle the global challenges of our age – whether they be economic, environmental or social. They may awaken something profoundly deep in you.
Which island is your favourite and why?
Rakiura/Stewart Island was the first island I visited, in 1969 and it made a big impression on me. I was a young newspaper reporter on an assignment, accompanying a Dunedin family of globetrotters aboard a boat they’d sailed back to Dunedin from the UK. For me, the experience of Rakiura suddenly and compellingly widened my horizons. Over the years, I have visited it dozens of times for work or recreation. Its population is small; natural values prevail.
Few of us will ever visit Antarctica, what’s something about it that you can only appreciate if you’ve actually been there?
In the first of my five books on Antarctic themes, I described Antarctica as ‘the world’s coldest, windiest, highest, driest, loneliest and least-known continent – a place man is exploring as he might another planet . . . a treeless, rainless place that delights in optical tricks – mock sun, twin peaks where one is mapped, and air that sparkles in metal-cracking cold.” [Ice On My Pallete, with artist Maurice Conly, 1977].
Is there a topic you plan to tackle next?
I haven’t mapped out a new project yet. I’ll let Home is an Island settle first.
Home is an Island: A Writer's Tribute to the Islands of Aotearoa New Zealand by Neville Peat, Potton & Burton, $39.99 RRP