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Tuesday, September 26, 2017 - 7
Peters finds freedom in Whananaki
Winston Peters has described Whananaki as a source
of hope during his darkest days — and it is the place he
turned to plot his next move after the election results
confirmed New Zealand First ’s kingmaker status.
SAM SACHDEVA of Newsroom reports.
acing the media outside
the D uke of Marlborough
Hotel on Sunday morning,
Winston Peters was in fine
The New Zealand First
leader ducked and weaved questions
over his party’s coalition plans,
throwing the occasional counterpunch,
before the media turned to a far more
appropriate topic — when had he last
“About three hours from now,” Peters
With that, it was time to make the
drive south to Whananaki, carefully
dodging rabbits bounding across the
winding roads while he headed to the
place where he was raised, and his
refuge from the ills of the world.
During the election campaign, the
NZ First leader spoke to Stuff about
how the settlement had helped him
through the tough days of his political
“No matter how bad things were, and
people have their black moments and
moments of despair when you seem to
think nobody cares or gives a rats, that
was a great thing about being from
Whananaki and I’m so pleased I live
There is not much to the place, as
the cheerful woman at the Whananaki
Beach Store (“ser ving the community
364 days a year”) outlined on a sunny
“There’s the hall — that ’s closed; the
library — that ’s closed; the school —
that ’s closed but it’ll be open tomorrow;
and we close at 5.30.”
Just down the road at the Whananaki
Holiday Park, there was some
confusion over where the owner Betty
Was she having an afternoon siesta?
Maybe at church? Or was she going
into town? No, not on a Sunday.
The settlement is cleaved in two by
the Whananaki Inlet, an estuary with
shells that crunch beneath your feet at
Mr Peters’s retreat is in the less easily
accessible Whananaki South.
The easiest route is via what is proudly
proclaimed to be the longest footbridge
in the Southern Hemisphere, 493 steps
along rickety wood with kingfishers
that rest on the handrails before flitting
From there, it is a short walk across
the estuary at low tide to Mr Peters’s
If there is any place to escape the
stresses and strains of the modern
world — and calls from those pesky
party leaders — it is here.
Mr Peters also has support in
numbers. A fair few of his family
also live in the area, as evidenced by
a wrought iron “Peters” sign on one
One relative, former Tongariro MP
Ian Peters, was driving out of the front
gate of his brother’s property on a
chilly and overcast Monday morning
when a group of media approached
in the hopes of a few words with the
Ian offered a friendly but firm
suggestion that conversation would not
be forthcoming — made clear when his
brother failed to appear at the door.
Heading back across the footbridge
to Whananaki North, confirmation of
the school’s opening came in the slap
of bare feet on wood from kids running
across to play before class.
Earlier in Russell, Mr Peters had
spoken about the joys of getting on the
water in Whananaki.
“ It ’s a freedom exercise, you’re away
from the strains and stresses from
somewhere like now, and nobody can
get to you. ”
Unfortunately, the tides did not come
to the party, and by mid-morning
yesterday Mr Peters and his partner Jan
Trotman had reportedly packed up and
headed back to Auckland.
It is off to Wellington tomorrow to
meet with his caucus and talk about
where to go next — but it would
not be a surprise if Mr Peters again
retreats to Whananaki before the talks
are done to enjoy another slice of that
Winston Peters has said Whananaki has been a lifeboat during his darkest days.
The Whananaki Beach Store.
PICTURES: Sam Sachdeva
Whananaki is home to the longest footbridge in the Southern Hemisphere.
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