Friday, 07 August 2020


Brenda Sewell's third book to be launched

By Jordan Gower

Opito Bay resident and author, Brenda Sewell, is a wealth of stories from “back in the day." She has just completed her third book containing some of the best of her memories of Opito Bay.

The book, titled "A History of Camping at Opito Bay," will be launched at the Mercury Bay Library in Whitianga at 11:00am on Friday 21 September.

Brenda is originally from England. She came to New Zealand in 1958 by boat. "Flying was too expensive, but I was determined to get here," she says. "My boat trip to the Land of the Long White Cloud took just a mere six weeks and settling in to my new life took even less time.

“I got a job in Auckland straight away and then I joined a tramping group there. I became friends with people in that group with whom I’m still friends with today.”

Soon after moving to New Zealand, Brenda met the man she would marry and together they explored New Zealand. One place that stood out, and became something of a “spiritual home” for Brenda and her family, was Opito Bay. “I remember when we arrived at Opito for the time,” says Brenda. “It was dark and we had been travelling for hours. It had taken us so long. There was no Kopu-Hikuai in those days.

“Then we finally got there and all we had was a paddock. No fancy bach, not even a DOC campsite. We had to dig our own toilets. But that was the way we liked it. And although our kids weren’t raised at Opito full-time, it really became their home."

When Brenda was 40 years old, she decided to go to university and enrolled in a qualification in anthropology and Maori studies. “Half my class were middle aged women like myself,” says Brenda. “And it was just lovely, we were all so excited to be there and learning new things. We were continuously bouncing ideas off of each other.”

Throughout Brenda’s life, Optio Bay has remained a constant source of inspiration and happiness for her and her family. From their very first camping trips to the area, Brenda has journaled their experiences and that’s where the stories in her latest book come from. “It’s really just a collection of my memories and those are always going to be about the way I experienced things," she says. "But I just felt a need to put them all together, because those experiences were such an important part of my life."

Scuba diving was a big part of Brenda and her family's daily routine at Opito Bay. Brenda’s husband was still diving at the age of 74, but these days he sticks to snorkelling. One of Brenda’s daughters is a marine biologist, a dream she has chased that since she was just 14 years old. It’s clear that the Sewell family has been hugely positively influenced by their Opito experiences.

"A History of Camping at Opito Bay" is being published by Aries Publishing, a Mercury Bay-based publishing company. "I'm a very proud grandmother and will be even more so when my 13-year-old grandson reads a few excerpts from my third book at the launch on 21 September," says Brenda.


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The Mercury Bay Informer is a highly popular community newspaper, based in Whitianga. The paper is distributed throughout the Coromandel Peninsula, coast to coast from Thames to north of Colville.