Christchurch, 1860, showing Avon River in the middle ground and Worcester Bridge in the background. Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. 1/2-022720-F

Christchurch, 1860, showing Avon River and Worcester Bridgein the middle ground. Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. 1/2-022720-F

I have been trawling historic newspapers in Papers Past in my efforts to research early European attitudes to New Zealand’s rivers. In the course (unintended pun) of doing so, I stumbled upon a report on the drainage of the city, submitted to the Christchurch City Council in 1864 by the City Surveyor. It is illuminating given the city’s struggle with flooding following the Canterbury earthquakes. (more…)

One of many scenes of devastation in the aftermath of Cyclone Bola.

One of many scenes of devastation in the aftermath of Cyclone Bola.

I have often wondered why I am so interested in the link between deforestation, flooding and erosion. I put it down to my love of forested environments, and therefore my interest in the history of these environments. But it has occurred to me that it is perhaps more than this – that it relates also to personal memory, of an event in the environmental history of my lifetime.

That event was Cyclone Bola, which hit the east coast of the North Island in March 1988, when I was a teenager. (more…)

When surveyors laid out the Manawatu town of Palmerston North, they were a little optimistic.

An 1878 [see left] and later 1895 survey map shows sections in the suburbs of Terrace End and low-lying Hokowhitu running right up to – and in some cases beyond – the banks of the meandering Manawatu River. However, the multitude of lagoons in the district showed that the Manawatu River must have flooded, and changed its course, many times throughout the centuries, leaving these “cut-off meander” lagoons as evidence. (more…)

Next week’s New Zealand Historical Association Conference features a special four-person panel dedicated to environmental history. The panel is entitled: “History shaping the future: how environmental history research can inform environmental policy and management”, and will feature papers by Professors Katie Pickles and Eric Pawson (both from Canterbury University), Professor Tom Brooking (Otago University) and Dr Catherine Knight (envirohistory NZ). (more…)

“Unless immediate steps are taken towards the conservation of large tracts of existing forests, and towards the re-planting” of forests “the climate, which is naturally dry, will become, year by year, more dry, until at length pastoral and agricultural pursuits … will become profitless, if not impossible.”

This was not written in 2008. Or 1988. Or even 1948. (more…)

In a recent essay published in the Economic History Society of Australia and New Zealand newsletter, University of Canterbury Professor of Geography Eric Pawson asks why people are becoming more – not less – vulnerable to environmental disasters. Recent events, such as the recent Canterbury earthquakes, the Japan earthquake and tsunami, Hurricane Katrina and the Victorian bushfires of 2009 have brought this question to the fore. The primary reason for this increasing vulnerability has been our growing confidence in the human ability to control nature through engineering and other means, leading us to disregard the recurrent and inevitable threat posed by natural hazards. (more…)

This signal box on the Paekakariki Railway Station platform tells of an illustrious history of a small coastal town intimately linked with the railway. The railway station dates from 1886 when the Wellington and Manawatu Railway Company’s line from Wellington to Longburn was completed. The railway runs alongside the state highway, the Paekakariki to Porirua segment of which was completed nearly four decades before, in 1849. Both transport links run through a narrow corridor of flat land wedged between steep hills to the east and the sea and old dune-lands to the west [click here to view map]. The town itself lies on a narrow band of undulating dune-lands, contributing to its slightly idiosyncratic character; its name, meaning “perch of the kakariki parrot” in Maori, seems particularly apt. (more…)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 522 other followers