Mr Environment and Adventure

Proud of the recent article in the chic and venerable Junction Magazine, the local magazine of my home town Matakana, Northland, New Zealand. Growing up in the Matakana, Warkworth and Rodney District with the wonderful community and beautiful coastline really shaped me and developed my passion for marine conservation.

You can read the full article at Junction Magazine by clicking here.

Excerpts of the article below:

Mr Environment and Adventure

Winston Cowie, son of Matakana locals Mike and Sue Cowie, grew up at Campbells Beach, Tawharanui Peninsula, before embarking on a successful career in environmental policy, film, writing, rugby and adventure that has taken him to over 40 countries. He currently works as the Marine Policy Manager at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, where he is settled with his wife, Lucy, and four children.

It was during his upbringing in the Kawau Bay region that his love for the environment really developed – sailing and fishing on the Kawau Bay side of Tawharanui and surfing at Anchor Bay and at Pakiri and Mangawhai further up the coast. Winston completed a law degree from Otago University, before being awarded a law scholarship to work at New Zealand law firm Russell McVeagh. Wanting to have a positive impact on society and the environment, Winston applied and was awarded academic and sporting scholarships to complete an MSc in Environmental Policy at Oxford University. 

He has spent the past ten years in the Middle East where he works as the Marine Policy Manager at the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. To give this context, his portfolio covers a marine area nearly half the size of the North Island, a population of 9.7 million people interacting with it and covers the sustainable use, environmental management and conservation of fisheries, protected areas, endangered species and habitats, biodiversity, eco-tourism, climate change, and development of the aquaculture sector.

But life isn’t all high level meetings with Ministers and the like, he still gets to do grass roots conservation  – this involves tackling gently Green Turtles which weighs 100kg and putting satellite tags on them.

Winston is considered a thought leader in the international environmental policy and climate change field where he has been awarded two Al Dana Pearl awards by His Highness Sheikh Hamdan of Abu Dhabi for his contributions to the Emirate, and more widely his work won ‘best sustainability communication’s campaign’ in the Middle East Region earlier this year. He was the Environment Agency Abu Dhabi Ambassador on the world record single use plastic free flight between Abu Dhabi and Brisbane on Earth Day this year. “I am able to have a positive impact on the environment and people both in the Middle East region and globally. And this is really what I am about – energizing positive outcomes for people and the environment.”

His innovative approach of using film in marine policy and to drive environmental outcomes and behavioural change has won international acclaim. In 2018, he was chosen as an Ambassador of the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi and environmental champion Dr Jane Goodall to complete the Sir Robert Swan Leadership and Climate Change Course on the International Antarctic Expedition. Sir Robert Swan was the first person to walk to both the north and south poles. From 90 international leaders in government, private practice and entrepreneurship from 20 countries, Winston was awarded the supreme Sir Robert Swan Leadership Award for his contributions to the expedition, notably for his use of solar energy to deliver a message of unity, hope and action to the world in solar lights from Antarctica. 

The film that Winston directed and co-presented on the Antarctic expedition – ‘Zayed’s Antarctic Lights’ won a World Medal at the prestigious New York Festivals TV and Film awards. 

Winston’s interest in film goes back to his time in New Zealand where his first documentary – Mystery at Midge Bay – premiered at Matakana Cinema. He also worked as the Dive Supervisor on the New Zealand underwater series ‘Our Big Blue Backyard’ with locals Brady Doak, Dave Abbott and Steve Hathaway, finding a Maori taonga whilst underwater at Tawharanui which he gifted back to local Maori. It was found under the same reef he had grown up surfing on.

Liking to keep busy, over the course of his journey, Winston has authored two New Zealand history books. The first is a historical fiction set during the New Zealand Wars of the 1860s, ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness’. It has been praised by the descendants of the Maori and Pakeha heroes he wrote about. His second book entitled Conquistador Puzzle Trail proposes that the Portuguese and Spanish were the first Europeans to discover New Zealand. After sparking a national debate, it has been added to the encyclopedia of New Zealand as the key source on this subject, translated into Spanish, and with the support of the Spanish Embassy in New Zealand over 300 copies were sent to all secondary schools and universities in New Zealand.

In addition to leading a good will charity rugby mission to Seychelles and Madagascar, which screened on World Rugby TV, Winston represented the UAE Rugby National Team at the World Cup Qualifiers in 2017. The team is ranked 62nd in the world and he is one of the Mahurangi region’s most recent rugby internationals.


Ghosts from the past. The release of Flames Flicker by Winston Cowie on Amazon Kindle.

King Tāwhiao, Rewi Maniapoto, Titokowaru, Wiremu Tamihana, Te Kooti, Prime Minister Harry Atkinson, Governor George Grey, Captain John Roberts,                        Ranger Gustavus Von Tempsky,  and Lieutenant-Colonel Thomas McDonnell.

Ghosts from the past.

Flames Flicker by Winston CowieThey should all be household names in New Zealand.

Sadly they are not. Today, the majority of people, New Zealanders and those abroad, don’t know who these important New Zealanders were, or what the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s were about.

I was in the same boat (until I started writing Flames Flicker on a boat – back in 2006). Like the majority of you, I wasn’t taught the New Zealand Land Wars at school – history was restricted to learning about Tudor-Stewart England and the Treaty of Waitangi.

We have forgotten from whence we came.

Did you know that the warrior-priest, Te Kooti, exiled to the Chatham Islands on suspicion of being a spy, mutinied a supply ship, sailed it back to Poverty Bay, and began the East Cape Uprising? Did you know that simultaneously, on the west coast, Chief Titokowaru and the Ngā Ruahine and Ngāti Ruanui defeated British forces for a second time at Te Ngutu o te Manu in southern Taranaki? British forces were stretched. After successive defeats on both coasts and with few soldiers, after most of the 10,000 strong Imperial force that had been lured to New Zealand by the wily politician George Grey had been recalled to other parts of the Empire, New Zealand was ripe for the taking.

King Tāwhiao and the Waikato Māori held the balance of power. Which of his chiefs would King Tāwhiao listen to? Would the Rewi Maniapoto faction, thirsty for war, win over the support of the King, or would he be swayed by the Christian values extolled by Wiremu Tamihana?

We should all know the answer to these questions, straight off the bat – and in doing so acknowledge and celebrate the lives of the 3000 that died during the New Zealand Land Wars of the 1860s. Ordinary people. Extraordinary New Zealanders. All of them fighting, over 150 years ago now, for what they believed was best for New Zealand.

In this year, 2016, the year of the 152nd anniversary of the end of the Waikato War, my New Zealand Land Wars historical fictions series is dedicated to the memory of these New Zealanders – all of those courageous men and women, both Māori and Pākehā, who helped shape New Zealand in the 1860s.

Reflect on the cover of Flames Flicker, above –  which has been launched as an ebook today. It’s a special cover – get to know these New Zealanders from the past that shaped New Zealand’s history.

The release of Flames Flicker by Winston Cowie.

Just over one year after the successful release of the ebook Greenstone Trail, the first book in the New Zealand Land Wars series (click here), Flames Flicker continues the adventures of Jack O’ Malley and Whero Pouākai as they find themselves thrown into war once again.

But it’s not just any war. The future of New Zealand is at stake.

King Tāwhiao and the Waikato tribes sit in the way of British settlement.

Chief Titokowaru leads an uprising amongst the Taranaki tribes in the west.

The warrior priest,Te Kooti, swoops from the east.

King Tāwiao and the Waikato tribes hold the balance of power.

Jack, with the help of the legendary Gustavus von Tempsky fights to quell the Māori rebellions at all costs.

But Whero Pouākai has other ideas. He has an oath to fulfil to Papatūānuku.

Purchase an ebook copy of Flames Flicker

To booklovers in New Zealand, you can purchase one of the few original hard copies of ‘A Flame Flickers in the Darkness,’ from which the ‘Greenstone Trail’ and ‘Flames Flicker’ ebooks are based, via Fishpond by clicking here.  Great for an Autumn read indoors or on the patio.

A note, you have to be in New Zealand to order a hard copy.

To purchase Flames Flicker on Amazon Kindle, click here.

You can also read it on the iphone or ipad by downloading the Kindle Reader App for free.

Praise for Flames Flicker and the New Zealand Land Wars historical fiction series

The two special reviews below are written by descendants of two of those New Zealanders on the cover of Flames Flicker, that helped shape New Zealand in the 1860s.

“A soul-changing history ignited. A destined shared-future determined. We will not die. E Kore tatou e Mate! This book is part of a destiny foundation legacy, which was foreseen prolifically by old world priests, visionary chiefs, and Māori tribes widely. I was overcome with liberated emotion …. The reader will walk the journey in their skin regardless of ethnicity.”
Kuia Te Rau Oriwa Davis. Ngaruahine. A Grandchild of Chief Titokowaru.

“Winston Cowie is New Zealand’s answer to Wilbur Smith! As the great-great grandson of the one the book’s main characters, I took immense pleasure in seeing New Zealand’s history come to life in A Flame Flickers in the Darkness (now ebooks Greenstone Trail and Flames Flicker). The power and mystique of the indigenous peoples battling the settlers’ rugged determination for a better life. These were men and women of their time, and Winston Cowie captured the period perfectly. The story of the New Zealand Wars is a story worth telling, especially when told as a cracking yarn! My great-great grandfather, John Roberts, a recipient of the New Zealand Cross for his actions in Taranaki, would be proud.” Sam Priest. A Great-Great Grandchild of Captain John Roberts. 

After reading these reviews, I sat back and considered them and ‘Flames Flicker’. It’s time for a change, I thought. At the very least the New Zealand Land Wars should be mandatory learning in New Zealand schools. I had to ask the question – are we ashamed of our history? Do we not want to acknowledge further the lives of the 3000 that died? Ordinary people. Extraordinary New Zealanders.

May 2016 Update –  In May 2016, I had an opinion piece published in the Northern Advocate, entitled ‘Where’s the mana’, which asked these very questions.

'Where's the mana?' by Wisnton Cowie. Northern Advocate. May 2016.

‘Where’s the mana?’ by Winston Cowie. Northern Advocate. May 2016.

The summary is – you would be proud to read and learn about these New Zealanders, of their courage and determination, of their mana and selflessness.

I researched them and wrote about them, and got to know them through writing about them. They deserve better recognition than what they have received to date. The likes of Titokowaru, Rewi Maniapoto and Gustavus Von Tempsky should receive posthumous recognition for their courage during the wars.

We shouldn’t be ashamed of our history. The glass is half full. We should be proud that New Zealand has come through this period of conflict with mana. We should celebrate these people that lived, and showed courage and be proud of successive governments who have honoured the Treaty of Waitangi Act, which has given redress for past injustices.

Unlike many other nations, New Zealand has stepped up, and with the support of most of the population.

Have a read. Learn about New Zealand’s forgotten history and be informed of contemporary issues that arise from it. I would challenge that the likes of King Tawhiao, Governor George Grey, Rewi Maniapoto, Wiremu Tamihana, Te Kooti, Wiremu Kingi, Prime Minister Harry Atkinson, Ranger Gustavus von Tempsky, and Colonel Thomas McDonnell are worthy of a place in your consciousness.

And as an afterthought, perhaps Sir Peter Jackson is interested. It would be incredible to see his interpretation of the forging of New Zealand as a nation on the big screen. Scripts have been written (e.g Flames Flicker: The Battle for New Zealand). :)

It’s time to bring the mana back to this forgotten period in New Zealand history.

That’s my view for what its worth.
Te hei mauri ora.


Winston Cowie

New Zealand Author