Ex-Bluff lad coming back to study town

LOUISE BERWICK
Last updated 05:00 17/02/2014
Southland Times photo
OTAGO UNIVERSITY MAGAZINE/Supplied
Former Bluff residentMichael Stevens is returning to the town to study the history of it.

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More than a decade after Bluff financially supported one of its own residents to go to university, he is returning home to study the town's history.

Michael Stevens started his academic career in the port town, winning a Bluff Community Board bursary grant to attend Otago University, where he now lectures in history and carries out his research projects.

Late last year, he won a $300,000 Marsden Fast-Start grant to focus on a historical case study of Bluff.

The town's community board chairman Raymond Fife said it was "special" that the board had funded someone who was now returning to the town to study it.

Dr Stevens said the initial grant he received from the community board was not only a financial help but also moral support. "Knowing that of all the people in the community, I got picked, it was like a blessing from the town."

Humble about his achievements, Dr Stevens said he was looking forward to returning to the town where three generations of his family have lived.

The Marsden fund will allow him to study the history of Bluff, which ties in with his PhD about two centuries of muttonbirding before the year 2000.

The Bluff history project will take about three years.

"While Bluff is important to me personally, it is actually a nationally significant port. Studying it should shed interesting light on New Zealand's colonial development and also directly connect with wider questions about how the British Empire functioned."

Dr Stevens said he hoped his research, which would not only be published in a book but also on a blog, would be of interest to both "Bluffies" and historians.

Despite now having a family, Dr Stevens plans to spend a lot of time in Bluff studying and spending time with locals.

After muttonbirding season he will launch the project publicly with a hui at the Te Rau Aroha Marae. "I'm really champing at the bit to get started."

The board handed out three more bursary grants this year.

The recipients were Kaukiterangi Blair, who is studying towards a health and science degree, Bonnie-Belle O'Donoghue, who is studying towards a bachelor of arts, and Riki Nyhon, who will be studying towards a bachelor of commerce.

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- The Southland Times

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