Ross Webber spent 46 years living the BushLife alone on remote Puangiangi Island in the Marlborough Sounds.
In 1957 the then 27-year-old bought the narrow, hilly island which is 45 minutes by boat from French Pass, the nearest settlement.
“My dream was to have a small farm on the mainland, not an island,” “But this was all I could afford. No-one wanted islands in those days.”
He cleared the scrub, built up a 250 head sheep farm and eventually his built shed into a two-bedroom house.
The early days could be lonely. “Sometimes I would go for quite long spells without seeing anyone,” he said, and the weather could get very wild. At that point Ross had his boat, and kept a truck at French Pass, and was able to head for town whenever he needed or wanted to. Ross had no health worries he had removed all his teeth to avoid getting toothache.
With the passing of time, Ross became more and more adapted to island life, and lead an almost wholly self-contained existence.
Shopping was done by mail order or a phone call to the nearest general store. “I’ve never been in a supermarket. Never even seen a shopping trolley.” The mail boat would come once a week and drop off the few supplies he needed. Ross didn't need much. He grew his own vegetables, had an orchard, and brewed his own beer and wine. Breakfast would start with plucking leaves from the tea bush in the back yard. He even made his own pottery. Once a month or so he would take out a sheep, cut all the meat off and salt and sun-dry it into biltong. For the first 12 years he supplemented his income—and diet—by fishing, until gave his boat away —”I didn’t use it very often and it was a hassle to look after.” By that point Ross hadn’t visited the mainland in 16 years.
Ross started with a diesel generator, and later experimented with home-made windmills, but in the end switched to a solar panel for his electricity. With no dairy products, he had no need for a fridge, and cooking was done on an old wood stove.
Ross has finally settled down in Torbay on Auckland's North Shore with wife Jean, who is 45 years younger. He sold his island for $3,000,000.
Webber said he and Jean went back to the island once but it was a sad experience. "It was very depressing to see it. It was all over-run, the fruit trees I had planted were dead. We couldn't get in [to the house] because it was all locked up."
These days Webber enjoys watching cricket and working in his garden. Pragmatic as always he has no regrets about leaving his island.
"I was too old to stay there. I needed a change."