Paulina Wittwer of Carnamah  |  100x70cm Giclée Fine Photographic Print by Martine Perret (2021)

Paulina Wittwer

"My name is Paulina. I live with my husband on Wittwer Farm. Peter was born here. He has a lot of history going back in the district. I was born on the South Island of New Zealand. I came out with a young family in 1988.

My parents appreciated the natural world. In those days it meant holidays as far away from civilization as possible. We would often as a family walk up river beds. I would fish with my father. We would bush walk or tramp as they call it in New Zealand. And that's a very strong tradition in our family to appreciate the natural world, to be interested in the trees, names of trees, the bush, the birds, particularly the birds. That's my passion now with flowers too - just appreciating natural beauty.

When I met Peter, we started talking about books. He was at university and running the farm. I had read a review of a book that I thought he would enjoy. So, my sweet line, my pickup line was: oh, I'll send you a notification of this book. I couldn't ask for his phone number, so I said, what's your fax number? The book was called The History of Europe by Norman Davis and both of us still look at that book now and we laugh about it.

Peter is a good farmer growing cereal crops, wheat, barley, occasionally lupins. Running a farm and being at uni with aging parents, he had a great grasp of the theory and the importance of the knowledge of re-vegetation. He needed another set of hands. That's when I stepped in. I have a practical view of the world.

Planting and increasing trees is one of my passions. It's best to make a trench to plant the trees. I guess I planted 90% of them. Peter would always help me with the preparation and the discussion of where things should go. It takes two people, a minimum of two people, to revegetate. Most of it we did ourselves, probably about 20,000, and through the local Landcare group through Northern Agricultural Catchments Council (NACC), and a grant, we re-vegetated a big plot and planted about 60,000 trees.

We certainly do see changes. Nature is a great leveller and then we've had three storms in about three years, including tropical cyclone Seroja. It took out a lot of our big Salmon gums and Gimlet trees, which was very sad because they were 200 or 300 years old and they're quite iconic in the landscape.

The push to plant trees in the district dropped off for various reasons. Farms have got bigger. They farm with GPS and it's considered that trees can get in the way of GPS. We can generally make allowances for the trees. We have an understanding of the importance of the natural world. After Seroja, people would say to us, oh, did you lose any buildings? And we didn't lose any buildings because Peter's a very good builder. We had roofs tied down and the trees did protect some buildings. But as soon as we said, we didn't lose any buildings, they'd say, oh, that's great. But we lost so many trees and it didn’t register as being very sad, but for us it was very sad.

Women are now driving tractors. Women need to want to do it, secondly, men are ‘allowing’ them and seeing that they do a reasonable job. And the role reversal, I think, is a sign of a good marriage. If you can hop in and help each other in various jobs, while each person still has the main responsibility for what they do.

Thanks to North Midlands Project who have introduced so many great ideas and concepts to the community and encourage everyone to join in.They've brought art to the community. It certainly made our life enriching to be able to go to art show, to sit and discuss ideas, to have a drink and a chat rather than being in a shed with a can of beer and a few chips or sausage rolls - don't get me wrong - I quite like a beer and a few chips myself but it's terrific now. We have an art scene. And the cafe 'One L' in the old church is brilliant.

It's very easy for farms to think of themselves as just a money-making machine but it's important to let the bush and the sounds and the vegetation fill up your senses. To get an appreciation of the bush. It provides the lifestyle, and I think the lifestyle and what we've got here needs to be totally appreciated and rejoiced. It’s our home, after all, and we all want to have a nice environment to live in.

Despite our fast-paced world many of us are now getting great pleasure from simply using the found objects around us. We create, we belong, we commit to our life here and embrace it."


Click below to view the full portrait and read each story from the Act Belong Commit exhibition Women of the Hinterlands