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Peter Salter living life on his own terms for over three decades.

 

Pete Salter is a farmer, a bushman, a tourist operator, and even a helicopter pilot.

In the heart of the South Island's untamed wilderness, where native forests flourish and rugged landscapes stretch as far as the eye can see, resides a man who has dedicated over three decades to living life on his own terms. Peter Salter, known by many as the quintessential West Coast bushman, chose to make Pukekura, a quaint old sawmilling town nestled amidst the trees, his sanctuary away from the modern world's dictates. It's not that he shunned human company, but rather, he yearned to escape the relentless chorus of advice on how he should live his life.

A Life Rooted in the Wilderness

For 35 years, Peter Salter and his wife Justine have called Pukekura their home, where they own and operate the entirety of the town, a population of just two. They oversee the historic tavern that dates back to 1878, a testament to the area's rich history. Their journey here began when Peter, a former city dweller from Wellington, took a holiday to the West Coast in the 1970s and found himself irresistibly drawn to the wild beauty of the region.

Peter's connection to the wilderness was immediate and profound. "I always loved getting out into the bush and hunting," he explains, reflecting on his formative years. This passion led him to discover a community of people thriving off the land, and the allure of a life in harmony with nature became irresistible. He was no longer content to be confined within the city walls; the untamed wilderness of the West Coast was calling his name.

From Military to Maverick

Peter Salter's journey has been one of diverse roles and adventurous pursuits. From his military background and service in the Air Force, he evolved into a farmer, bushman, tourist operator, and even a helicopter pilot. His life, however, transcends conventional labels. He is an individual who, fueled by his beliefs, once rode on horseback to storm the parliament in protest, advocating passionately for causes he held dear.

An outspoken anti-1080 activist and political candidate, Peter's life story is interwoven with his encounters with the New Zealand bureaucratic system. His battles, both won and lost, haven't deterred him from keeping his sense of humor and sanity intact. He channeled his convictions into a run for the Ban 1080 party in the local election, finishing third in the West Coast region, a testament to his enduring impact.

A Passion for Possums and Perseverance

At the heart of Peter Salter's endeavors lies his commitment to the possum hunting industry. Having hunted and trapped possums for nearly four decades, Peter's experiences and insights into this trade are unparalleled. He laments the bureaucratic hurdles that private operators face, hindering their efforts to contribute to possum control on public land. For him, the millions spent on 1080 drops feel like a misdirected investment, and he believes that the real solution could lie in introducing a bounty system for each possum.

Peter's expertise extends beyond theory – he has practical know-how. He can skin a possum with remarkable swiftness, a skill honed over years of hands-on experience. He emphasizes that his knowledge isn't derived from books but from his time spent immersed in the wilderness.

A Life Shared with Justine.

Peter and Justine Salter

Central to Peter's life is his partnership with Justine. The couple's love story is as unique as their lifestyle. Meeting in 1997 when Justine walked into Peter's shop, their connection was instant. They sealed their bond by marrying on a mountaintop, both wearing wedding outfits crafted from possum fur. Their unity goes beyond personal ties – together, they run The Bushman's Centre, a hub of education and experiences in Pukekura.

Pete Salter is a farmer, a bushman, a tourist operator, and even a helicopter pilot.

The Centre offers visitors a glimpse into the world of possum hunting and the couple's way of life. Though they once faced legal challenges for selling possum pies, their passion for sharing knowledge about the possum industry prevails. The museum showcases live possums and educates tourists about the trade that's intricately woven into the fabric of the West Coast.

Pete Salter is a farmer, a bushman, a tourist operator, and even a helicopter pilot.

 

Closing One Chapter, Opening Another

As they move forward, the Salters are determined to stay true to their values. Peter and Justine have decided to transition from their bustling tourism venture. The couple has chosen to close The Bushman's Centre and embark on a new chapter, marked by activities close to their hearts. Justine plans to indulge in creative pursuits like crafting clothing from possum fur, painting, and writing children's books. Peter, ever the advocate for independence, has decided to leave the world of tourism behind and explore new avenues that align with his passions.

Reflecting on their journey, Peter emphasizes the value of time over money and the importance of doing what brings joy. The Salter's story is one of resilience, determination, and a deep-rooted connection to the land they've chosen to call home.

Peter Salter's legacy isn't just confined to the pages of history; it lives on in the landscape he's shaped, the minds he's influenced, and the spirit of independence he's fostered in the heart of Pukekura's wilderness. As the sun sets on one phase of their journey, there's no doubt that new adventures await Peter and Justine, forever intertwined with the untamed beauty that has defined their lives.

 

Peter has written several books where you can read more about his adventures.

Pete The Bushman

A Hunter In Captivity

A Hunter in Captivity

1 comment

  • I am sat here in front of my log fire with a large glass of Laphroig and copies of Peter Salter’s books close to hand. He signed them and wrote some pertinent comments when I bought them from him a few years ago. Torrential rain had caused the closure of the main road heading south past his cafe and traffic was being turned round by local police. We pulled in to his Bushman’ Centre to get our bearings and plan the next step on our South Island tour. The place was packed with travellers with the same idea. Peter was our waiter that day and when I asked him when the road was likely to re-open he said that it could be days! It was not what I wanted to hear but at least I knew where I stood. I suppose the advice he gave me in that instant sums up the man. He tells it straight and I wish more people were like him. I see that he has closed his cafe but no doubt he did it for the right reasons. His books still make me laugh because they say what most people are thinking but choose not to.
    His was certainly the best cafe in NZ – it has been called the worst- and if it were not for the wild west coast weather we would never have called in. It was certainly a highlight of our trip to your beautiful country. We are a bit strange like that. We are from Britain; no sense of humour.9

    I hope Mr Salter and his wife have a long and happy retirement but I am pleased he was my waiter on the one and only time that our paths briefly met . I have his books and a glass half full.

    Keith Pilling

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