Salute to Gully families who paved the way

Exhibition honours families who farmed the land for 150 years

Rosalie Willis





With the opening of Transmission Gully, the Paeka¯ka¯riki Station Museum is making sure the sacrifices of those involved over the years are not forgotten. An exhibition featuring the Smith and Perkins families, who farmed the land for 150 years, has been installed by Dave Johnson, with support from the families, and Bride Coe who took images of the last shear on the farm in 2011. Back in 1860, 100 acres of land was granted to Frank Smith for his service to the militia. A series of purchases and acquisitions in the surrounding area led to him eventually owning land in Whareroa, Wainui and Tunapo that turned into three distinct runs — Middle Run, Wainui and Tunapo. John Perkins inherited Middle Run in 1970, moved there with his wife Betty, and farmed the land until it was purchased under the Public Works Act for Transmission Gully in 2012. “It’s great to have Transmission Gully, but it’s had a huge effect on this family and a lot of people in this community,” Dave Johnson said. “With this exhibition, we wanted to show respect for the Perkins and Smith family, and appreciate that they’ve done a lot. “Betty was on every single committee and community group we had.” The purchase of the land took about 25 years, with John and Betty’s daughter Natasha Perkins remembering negotiations and conversations about the land taking place throughout her childhood. “My whole life, every time I came home there would be a bunch of consultants on the front porch having a cup of tea,” Natasha said. “We joked about taking all their business cards and putting them into a draw at the end of it, but Dad said there wouldn’t be a bowl big enough. “Right through my childhood and young-adult years, there would always be consultants around trying to talk him into giving up the land. “When he was about 65 . . . he finally said they should just take the whole farm, seeing as the road would go right through the middle of it.” The last shear on the land took place in November 2011, with members of the Paeka¯ka¯riki community turning out to watch. At one stage 2400 RomneyPerendale sheep grazed the land and people from throughout Paeka¯ka¯riki visited the farm. “All the locals would come over and walk around it — there were only a couple of rules. You couldn’t come on it during lambing, and give us a courtesy call if you’re coming on it to go in the bush — mainly because we would only allow one set of hunters in there at a time for safety.” Paeka¯ka¯riki School used to visit, John held huge bonfires there for Guy Fawkes and the shed was used for Natasha’s 21st and 40th birthday parties, while her younger brother also got married on the land. “We had good cardboard boxes with wax bottoms which we would use to slide down the hills and would visit and abseil down the historic brick fuel tank from World War II.” Natasha said it’s “odd” now that Transmission Gully is finally open. “It’s been 10 years since we left the land and I know that we’ve just got to get on with it. “The road’s quite good, it’s an engineering feat, but I don’t intentionally go on it.” After spending many years ingrained in the Paeka¯ka¯riki community, John and Betty moved to Horowhenua, reluctant to see his farm being cut up, before passing away in 2018. “This would have taken a few years off his life and mum got earlyonset dementia and I think this would have contributed to that with 25 years of not knowing what’s going to happen.” Dave said, “The Perkins moving was one of those end-of-an-era moments. “The family are part of the history of the village, with Smith and Te Miti Sts named after them, along with Betty Perkins Way.” The history has been preserved by the museum, with the exhibition showing videos of shearing, historic pictures of the farm and artefacts from the past.