What is natural? The case of the Christchurch Port Hills

When the author lived in Christchurch, she found that many Cantabrians would become highly impassioned with even the suggestion of a development threatening the tussocked landscape of the Port Hills. The author even struck cases where people opposed native tree-planting projects because they would detract from the “natural tussocked landscape”. Certainly, it is hard to find a Cantabrian who is not fond of the soft, light golden-tinged tussocked hills that surround Christchurch, nor one who would question the “naturalness” of this landscape.

Yet, the tussocked hillsides of which Cantabrians are so fond are not natural, but a result of human intervention over time – through fire, logging and grazing. Some of this human-caused change occurred prior to European settlement, which is perhaps why the current landscape has become so fully ingrained in the collective psyche as being both natural and beautiful. Continue reading