Book review: Life on Muzzle

 A tale of pioneering in the 1980’s in one of New Zealand’s most remote high country stations captures book reviewer Peter White’s imagination.

Review: Peter White

Photos: Derek Morrison reproduced with permission from Life on Muzzle by Fiona Redfern

The resilience, resourcefulness, love of pets, care of stock and stewardship of the land are compellingly told in this most interesting book by first-time author Fiona Redfern.

Muzzle Station is on the Clarence River between the Inland and Seaward ranges in southern Marlborough. Redfern’s parents, Colin and Tina Nimmo bought the lease for the place in 1980 and set about creating a new high country station from land carved from two other runs – Bluff Station and Clarence Reserve Station.

This is a tale of pioneering in the 1980’s rather than the 1800’s with remoteness – 26 river crossings, a 1370 metre high mountain range, 65 kilometres 2-3 hour drive to Kaikoura. Adding to the remoteness there was no power or telephone and harsh winter weather and an original cob cottage to live in.

Despite the difficulties and challenges Colin and Tina Nimmo made progress by dint hard work and made a success of the station. In addition, they raised two feral daughters as Redfern describes herself and her sister.

Bringing cattle over the range at Muzzle Station, Kaikoura, New Zealand.

After 35 years at the helm of Muzzle, Redfern’s parents handed to reigns to Redfern and her husband Guy – the second generation of guardians. They, along with a cast of characters have continued the progress and traditions of Muzzle with immense enthusiasm and energy as well as enjoying all the lifestyle and environment the station has to offer.

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One surprising but interesting addition to the book is a chapter on the Kaikoura earthquake of 13 November 2016, when a 7.8 magnitude quake ripped this part of the country open. One heart rendering photo shows a child standing on a chair cleaning her teeth in a bathroom clearly broken. The resilience and resourcefulness of the Kaikoura community, individuals and official agencies is detailed by a grateful author.

A wonderful personal and historical record of high country farming and family life, enhanced with some stunning photography. However, the question which remains unanswered is how Fiona Redfern found the time and energy to research and write this book whilst raising two feral (her words) children, working on the station, catering for workers and numerous visitors.

This book is the modern version of another high country classic – A River Rules My Life by Mona Anderson and is worthy of the same long term interest and importance.

Life on Muzzle: Three Generations on New Zealand’s Most Remote Station

by Fiona Redfern
Photography by Derek Morrison
Random House New Zealand
RRP $45.00

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