May 2010


The post on the history of pollution in the Manawatu River has been one of the most popular posts on this website. This post adds to that story with a history of Palmerston North’s sometimes beleaguered sewerage system.

In the 1870s, the early years of the township, there was no sewage network. Instead, households had “long-drops”, while hotels and boarding houses built cesspits to bury “nightsoil”. By 1877, the odour from these was becoming unbearable in some locations, and in 1879, the borough council prohibited the digging of open cesspits, instead creating a ten acre “sanitary reserve” for the burial of nightsoil and household refuse.

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I have just finished reading The Water Thieves by Sam Mahon. Sam Mahon is an artist who lives in renovated flour mill in Waikari, North Canterbury. He was recently in the news for his bust of Environment Minister Nick Smith, made entirely of cow dung. The bust was created as part of a campaign to stop the Hurunui River from being dammed for irrigation. (more…)

Today, we pride ourselves as being a fervently anti-whaling nation.  And while most New Zealanders know that whaling also occurred in our coastal seas and on our shores, many would also assume that whaling in this country ended sometime in the late 19th or early 20th century. In fact, this is not the case – the last whaling station in New Zealand closed down only in 1964. (more…)

Mountains, bears and conservation in New Zealand and Japan are topics featured in an interview with envirohistory NZ founder, Catherine Knight on the latest episode of Exploring Environmental History.

From Exploring Environmental History: “On the podcast Cath briefly talks about the origins and topics of the blog before exploring her work on Japanese environmental history. (more…)

The dramatic tussock-lands of Lindis Pass are one the iconic landscapes of the South Island, and much admired by the traveler on their way from Canterbury to Queenstown or beyond. So iconic has this landscape become, it is hard to believe that while the tussock vegetation is “indigenous”, it is not “natural”. Rather, it is a human-induced landscape.

Lindis Pass is part of an extensive “dryland zone” which extends along much of the eastern part of the South Island [see map below right]. (more…)

This post differs from most of the other posts on this site, in that it is a lot more personal in nature. It acknowledges two very important “men” in my life – my husband, Clive, and my son, Carter.

My husband is the inspiration and the one-man technical support team behind this website. Clive knows how important thinking and communicating about environmental history and related subjects is to me, and felt that this would be an ideal mechanism to enable me to express myself and engage with others on this topic. If it was not for his initial idea, and his ongoing support and encouragement, this site would not exist. Clive is also a school teacher and has been involved in Enviroschools and other initiatives to encourage student learning about the environment through direct experience. (more…)

In the increasingly impassioned debate about mining (for example the estimated 50,000-strong march in Auckland on 1 May), it is helpful to have an understanding of the history of mining in New Zealand and the implications it has had. As with many other environmental issues, there are important lessons that can be learnt from our history. [Below: coal mining settlement at Burnetts Face, West Coast, ca 1905]

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