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Masterton archivist honoured for bringing local history to life

Gareth Winter speaking in December last year. PHOTO/FILE

Gareth Winter


For services to historical research

[email protected]

Under Gareth Winter’s care, the Wairarapa Archive has grown to become a premier provincial archive.

The archive now boasts more than two million photographs, as well as a photocopied record of 40 volumes of Native Land Court Minutes, a vital record of the whakapapa of Wairarapa Maori.

Alongside this, Winter has presented numerous historical talks to schools, community groups and at community events, and established the Lavinia Winter Fellowship, aimed at women interested in writing or art.

The Wairarapa Archive had already been established at the time of Winter’s appointment 23 years ago, but grew exponentially under his leadership, where Winter’s innovative approach to archival outreach meant that history from all the constituent groups of Wairarapa was brought to light and life.

Winter said one of the highlights of his 23-year tenure involved working alongside esteemed Maori researchers, “particularly Mita Carter and Jim Rimene”.

Reflecting on the award, Winter said he felt “slightly weird”.

“I guess everyone who’s honoured feels a bit like that.”

Winter described his route to archive mastery as “circuitous”, but the skills he picked up throughout his life, particularly running the Lansdowne plant nursery, meant he approached the archive with a deep skillset that bridged business, administration, communications, as well as the practices of nurturing and cultivation.

“When I left school I trained as a journalist, then worked in administration in an office, and then I worked in horticulture, where I owned a nursery.

“So, I had a business background – and in the nursery business you don’t get money for growing plants, you get money for selling plants.

“My whole philosophy of archiving, and this is why we’ve been so successful, is that it doesn’t matter so much what we get in; what’s really important is what we get back out.”

Winter’s focus on “externalising” the archive, through media and non-fiction publications, meant that the history of Wairarapa wasn’t left to gather dust, but was lived and re-lived through prose, storytelling, and learning.

“I don’t know how many, but this includes over 200 feature stories for the Times-Age, and the Archive has also published over 30 books during that time with the help of publishers Ian and Di Grant.

“I think the irony is that archives tend to concentrate on stuff coming in, and getting stuff in.

“But the more you concentrate on getting stuff out, the more that comes in.

“By getting it out you have a higher profile, that’s part of why we’ve been successful.

The archive receives more than 2000 visitors a year, with a “disproportionately higher number of Maori researchers, higher than the proportion of population.

“The really great thing is that it shows the community values it.”


  1. Haha I remember when Gareth was a colourful hippie in the 70’s before he got bruises on his knees

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