Swamp Fever is the fascinating tale of one man's life as an alternative lifestyler in Golden Bay, northwest of Nelson. As a nineteen-year-old, Gerard Hindmarsh quit his public servant job as a cartographic cadet for the Department of Lands and Survey and bought a block of scrub-covered, swampy land at Tukurua near Collingwood. Gerard was part of the homesteading movement of the 1970s, embracing the hippy ideals of getting back to the land to live a more self-sufficient and sustainable lifestyle. Much of his land was swamp, initially ear-marked for draining, but, after fortuitously discovering its vibrant ecology, Gerard fell in love with not only his swamp, but swamps in general. His wetland, with its birds, fish, and plants, becomes a metaphor throughout the book of Gerard's growing connection with the land, and he compares the diverse and thriving community in his swamp with the changing community in Golden Bay. Here the conservative farming establishment was forced to face and accept change in the community as alternative lifestylers, whose values were at odds with their own, made a big impact on their comfortable existence.
Swamp Fever is the memoir of not just one man, but of a time in New Zealand's recent history not yet well-documented. It captures a changing society at a time when conventional attitudes towards land and nature, community and family, personal relationships and authority were being challenged. Gerard Hindmarsh is a natural storyteller and he has written a book that is not only insightful and revealing, but hugely entertaining.