environmentalhistoriescoverEnvironmental Histories of New Zealand, edited by Eric Pawson and Tom Brooking (2002, Oxford University Press), is a must-read for anyone interested in New Zealand’s environmental history. It presents an interdisciplinary account of one of the most rapid and extensive transformations of nature in human history: that which followed Maori and then European colonization of New Zealand’s temperate islands. New Zealand is noted for its extraordinary environmental histories, but this is the first book from within the country to chart and analyse these histories for wider audiences. Unusual among environmental histories, this book provides a comprehensive analysis of change, in its wider as well as its local contexts.


Ngā Uruora – The Groves of Life Ecology and History in a New Zealand Landscape, by Geoff Park (1995, Victoria University Press). This book has become a classic of New Zealand environmental writing. Geoff Park was a respected ecologist, eco-historian and writer whose primary concerns were conserving the last remains of New Zealand’s indigenous lowland forest ecosystems and understanding the colonial history that led to their near-vanishing. As a tribute to Geoff Park, who died in March 2009, Radio New Zealand National featured a 6-part radio series of Ngā Uruora. Link to audio on demand files here.

Our Islands, Our selves, by David Young (2004, Otago University Press). In this first-ever history of conservation in New Zealand, David Young explores the evolution of a conservation ethic. While the basis for conservation is the recognition of New Zealand’s unique flora and fauna, Young contends that conservation in New Zealand is not just a need to protect this indigenous biodiversity. Conservation is also linked to a sense of identity and community. Young includes significant discussion on the cultural influences of Maori and European views of nature.

New Zealand Historical Atlas, edited by Malcolm McKinnon, with Barry Bradley and Russell Kirkpatrick (1997, Bateman). Surveys New Zealand history through a dazzling array of maps and graphics, covering the story of life on these islands from their origins through East Polynesian settlement, the building of pa in the Bay of Islands, the colonial era in the nineteenth century through to the present. There are 100 double page spreads looking at subjects as diverse as glaciation, Maori horticulture, the journeying of the Tama Pokai Whenua, the pakeha invasion of the Waikato in 1863-64, Presbyterians and the ‘demon drink’, the world of Women in the paid workforce, small town New Zealand.

Hunting: A New Zealand History, by Kate Hunter (2009, Random House) describes how hunting was essential to the successful colonization of this country. It has helped to build communities and families, and hunting knowledge has been handed down from generation to generation. Cutting across racial and class differences, hunting is intrinsic to the way New Zealanders view the natural world and the way we’ve experienced, closely observed and understood the bush. Hunting ties New Zealand to the world, yet the particular shape of hunting here makes it remarkably distinctive.

Gamekeepers for the Nation: The story of New Zealand’s acclimatisation societies, 1861-1990, by R.M. McDowall (1994, Canterbury University Press). New Zealand ‘s famous recreational hunting and freshwater fishing are based almost entirely on introduced birds and animals. Trout, salmon, deer, most game birds, and most other shooters’ and anglers’ quarry were imported from their native habitats to stock the sportsman’s paradise of New Zealand. In Gamekeepers for the Nation NIWA scientist Bob McDowall tells the story of how these animals were introduced, nurtured and managed, and outlines how they have affected the lives and the environment of all New Zealanders.

Seeds of Empire: the environmental transformation of New Zealand, by Tom Brooking and Eric Pawson (2010, I.B.Tauris & Co Ltd). The traditional image of New Zealand is one of verdant landscapes with sheep grazing on lush green pastures. Yet this landscape is almost entirely an artificial creation. As Britain became increasingly reliant on its overseas territories for supplies of food and raw material, so all over the Empire indigenous plants were replaced with English grasses to provide the worked up products of pasture – meat, butter, cheese, wool, and hides. In New Zealand this process was carried to an extreme, with forest cleared and swamps drained. ‘Seeds of Empire’ provides both an appraisal of New Zealand’s environmental history and an exploration of the significance of grass in the processes of developing an empire.

The Singing Island: The Story of Tiritiri Matangi, by Lynnette Moon, photographs by Geoff Moon (1998, Godwit). The story of Tiritiri Matangi, an island in the Hauraki Gulf. After being settled first by Maori and then by Europeans, all the forest on the island was cleared for farming and numerous predators were introduced. When the lease for farming expired in the 1980s, it was decided to make the island a wildlife sanctuary – the forest was restored by the planting of thousands of trees and the island now boasts over 76 species of birds. This beautifully written history, with photographs on every page, is written especially for children, and is a wonderful way for our future leaders to learn about one very important environmental history.

Exploring Environmental History is the podcast about human societies and the environment in the past. These podcasts are produced by Dr Jan Oosthoek, an environmental historian based at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland. The periodic programmes feature interviews with people working in the field, reports on conferences and discussions about the use and methods of environmental history. Click here to download podcasts from 2006 to today. You can also subscribe to these podcasts through iTunes.

Natures Past: a podcast of the Network of Canadian History & Environment. Produced by Dr Sean Kheraj, a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of History at the University of British Columbia. Click here to download podcasts from December 2008 to today. You can also subscribe to these podcasts through iTunes.

More books and other resources coming here soon. Please let us know if you have some suggestions.

2 Responses to “Resources”

  1. John Hawken Says:

    Gamekeepers for the nation : the story of New Zealand’s acclimatisation societies, 1861-1990
    McDowall, R. M.

    Bob McDowall is a NIWA scientist who has documented the introduction of exotic species into NZ & their impact on our ecosystems

    1. Thanks for the recommendation John! Will add this book to the list. envirohistory NZ

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