Peter Olds


PETER OLDS was born in Christchurch in 1944 and lives in Dunedin. When he has worked, it has been as a window dresser, tobacco picker, hospital orderly, and in the wool and meat industries. In his younger days he hitch-hiked the length and breadth of New Zealand and spent some time at James K Baxter’s Jerusalem commune on the Whanganui River in the early ’70s.

He likes gardening and walking and solitude. His poems have appeared in Islands, Landfall, the NZ Listener, Glottis, OUSA Review and the Otago Daily Times. Since 1972 he has published seven books of poems. The latest, It Was a Tuesday Morning (Selected Poems 1972-2001), was published by Hazard Press in 2004.

Olds comments: ‘I love to go to places of interest where people once lived in pre-European times. I like to imagine what it was like for those who had only a bone and stone technology between themselves and extinction.

‘In the year 2000 & something, Murdering Beach (Whareakeake) is not a bad place for a picnic and a swim. Some surfers find good swells out among the black rocks beyond the cliffs at the ends of the beach.

‘In pre-European days there was a large Maori village (some 300 houses) at Murdering Beach and greenstone manufacturing on a large scale took place there: one of the biggest sites in the country with processing conducted on a “phenomenal scale”. The name Murdering Beach came about as a result of a feud between pakeha sealers and Maori in the early 1800s.

‘It seems a “common sealer”, William Tucker, antagonized the Maoris at some earlier date by stealing a preserved tattooed head (a serious offence) and, as a consequence, had utu (revenge) placed on him. He was eventually killed and hacked to pieces on the beach along with some of his fellow sealers. Each subsequent reprisal (resulting in many deaths on each side), “called for another, long after the original cause had disappeared from sight.”

‘Murdering Beach in later times, due to the greenstone manufacturing activity of its past, became a great scource of artefacts and was systematically dug for at least a century by professional, as well as amateur, archaeologists.

‘Today the name Murdering Beach is out of favour and its original name, Whareakeake, is preferred.’

(Source and quotes from Behold the Moon by Peter Entwistle, Port Daniel Press, Dunedin, 1998)


Poem: At Murdering Beach



New Zealand Book Council writer file

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