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Home > Categories > Books > Pictorial > High Hopes and Big Dreams: 165 New Zealand small towns in their twilight review

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Score: 9.3/10  [1 review]
4 out of 5
ProdID: 9178 - High Hopes and Big Dreams: 165 New Zealand small towns in their twilight -  Authored / Edited by Peter Janssen and Elizabeth Anderson

High Hopes and Big Dreams: 165 New Zealand small towns in their twilight
Price:
$49.99
Sample/s Supplied by:
Click to search for all products supplied by Upstart Press

Disclosure StatementFULL DISCLOSURE: A number of units of this product have, at some time, been provided to KIWIreviews by Upstart Press or their agents for the sole purposes of unbiased, independent reviews. No fee was requested, offered nor accepted by KIWIreviews or the reviewers themselves - these are genuine, unpaid consumer reviews.
Available:
October 2023

High Hopes and Big Dreams: 165 New Zealand small towns in their twilight product reviews

Proud to promote NZ productsWhen Peter Janssen and Elizabeth Anderson started writing High Hopes and Big Dreams, they set out to profile 165 small historic towns that once flourished but have since faded. But the enterprise turned out to be much more than a story of growth and decline because the history of our small towns is linked to social and political change.

The rise and fall of farming, ports, mining, timber, and rail are all common themes. There are stories of flourishing Maori communities, religious settlements, ethnic groups, and even a brewery town.

High Hopes and Big Dreams tells the stories of aspirations and subsequent disappointment in small town Aotearoa New Zealand. Some of these towns have vanished completely, while others have now discovered a new purpose and are reinventing themselves. With a combination of historical and contemporary photographs, this book is simultaneously a guidebook and a nod towards our tumultuous past.

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Tags:
aotearoa   change   elizabeth anderson   high hopes and big dreams   history   new zealand   peter janssen   photograph   political   small town   social   twilight   nzmade
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Review by: savta (Jo)
Dated: 31st of December, 2023

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This Review: 9.3/10
Price:
Score 9 out of 10
Value for Money:
Score 9 out of 10
Content:
Score 9 out of 10
Interest Factor:
Score 10 out of 10

This book is an interesting foray into Aotearoa New Zealand's past. The photography varies from amateur (since some of the older photos were taken by ordinary people who just happened to be there at the right time) to professional; the recent photos have been the result of modern equipment and the expertise of photographers Josip Bojcic and Peter Janssen. Accompanying the photos is the historical background and contemporary status of each town as written by collaborators Peter Janssen and Elizabeth Anderson.

Having travelled extensively within the country over the last few years, I recognised most of the featured towns before I even got to the text. Aotearoa's history has been that of a network of small towns with an occasional larger one that eventually outgrew its beginnings and then reinvented itself as a city, swallowing up several smaller neighbouring settlements as it evolved. However, as the title "High Hopes and Big Dreams" might imply, many small towns continue to thrive.

There have been the casualties as times change: some, like Welshtown, have slowly turned to ruins as the gold sources dried up. The inhospitable nature of the terrain was not encouraging to the average retiree or small farmer! However, other small towns have thrived precisely because of their location. Those on the main arterial routes like Waikouaiti and Waharoa will continue to survive and prosper as they offer a place for travellers to stop and enjoy a snack or a meal.

I like the way the authors have used contrasting photographs to capture the essence of their chosen places at two moments in time. The full colours of the modern representations make it very clear which is which as they appear beside the stark monochrome of the earlier photos. The text fills in the gaps with a description of each town and its origins, a brief reference to the reasons for its decline, and a summary of where the town is placed in the 21st century. These descriptions are useful insofar as they also trace the rise and fall of the roles of mining, forestry management, and land usage in the last two centuries.

Welcome though the individual descriptions might be, it would have been even better if some of them had been expanded to include more information about each place. Some of the pages have white space which could have been used to add anecdotes or profiles of someone associated with the town. For me, in fact, the production was much more of a photographic essay than a text-based narrative. My first reading of the book was to look at every photograph in turn and ignore the script completely. (Later, of course, I went back and read it.) It would also have been useful to acknowledge photographer Josip Bojcic somewhere on the book cover or title page. The sole mention of his contribution is in the Photo Credits section on Page 298.

I do understand the breadth of a book like this. It would have been impossible to include every small town in the country, and the selection chosen does represent an amazing collection of the varied architectural styles used over the years. This is a book of hope for the future of small town Aotearoa as people move away from coastal areas, spooked by global warming and unpredictable tidal surges, and look to relocate inland. There is plenty of inspiration here, especially in the South Island where many featured places are well away from the coasts.

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