Author(s): Mary Shanahan
When two well-heeled sisters purchased the sprawling Kereru Station, old school farmers must have shook their heads in bemused dismay. The property was in serious decline. Fences had collapsed, paddocks were reverting to rabbit-infested scrub and the once handsome homestead was being used to store hay and house calves. Gwen Malden and Ruth Nelson were eccentric, artistic women but, like their grandfather, they were also savvy. In 1857, the 20-year-old James Nelson Williams had borrowed the wherewithal to established Kereru as one of Hawke's Bay's earliest sheep runs. Both generations adopted a similar approach to the farm, employing able managers to shape profit-making enterprises. Quirky and creative, sisters Ruth Nelson and Gwen Malden purchased the rundown Kereru Station in the aftermath of Wold War II. Reviving the sprawling sheep station's fortunes, these visionary women channelled its profits into their favoured causes. Ruth, with her lifelong friend Edna Burbury, founded and supported Hawke's Bay's Rudolf Steiner school while Gwen, a gifted painter, buoyed up the arts and charities dear to her heart. Enriching this history are the stories told by those who have lived and worked on the historic station, battling wind, drought, pests and floods while never failing to be seduced by the spectacular beauty of its landscape.