Te Apiti wind farm

Te Apiti wind farm, near Ashhurst. Photo by Ashhurst.org.

One of the topics I have been researching for my book documenting the environmental history of the Manawatu Region (see: Manawatu’s environmental past to be documented) are wind farms. This is a fascinating story, not so much because of the wind farms themselves, but in terms of the clear evolution in thinking around wind farms. The contrast between the public response to the early wind farms in the Manawatu and the later ones could not be more dramatic. (more…)

I was recently recommended the book “Living with Natives – New Zealanders talk about their love of native plants”, jointly edited by Ian Spellerberg, professor of nature conservation at Lincoln University and Michele Frey, an environmental planner. In the book, 44 New Zealanders, from politicians, artists to farmers and business people, talk about their relationship with native plants through short essays accompanied by plentiful photographs (and paintings, in the case of artist Diana Adams – see painting left). Each essay ends with tips about growing natives from the author, many of them very wise – and some even profound! (more…)

In her 1954 reminiscences of pioneering life in the Manawatu town of Palmerston North, Charlotte Warburton writes about childhood adventures in the bush in the Hokowhitu area, adjoining the Manawatu River.

I grew up in Hokowhitu in the 1970s, not far from the River, but by then there was little sign that anything but the exotic had ever thrived there. (more…)

One of the many joys of doing historical research is reading the editorials and letters to the editor in historical newspapers (see also: Manawatu’s environmental past to be documented). People seemed to have been very free with their opinion on all kinds of things – not least of which the doings of government – and used sarcasm, dry wit and irony liberally and adeptly.

One letter I came across recently dates from 1868, and contains the correspondent’s observations on road and bridge-building around the fledgling Manawatu settlement of Palmerston. (more…)

A few months ago, I posted the story, The city of hidden lagoons: Palmerston (of the north), which explored the watery history of the Manawatu city of Palmerston North, where I grew up. In particular, the post told a little of the story of the long-forgotten Awapuni Lagoon, which once lay in the south-west corner of the city. This post will add to that story, with the history of the Mangaone Stream, which fed into the Manawatu River in the same area of the lagoon. (more…)

Dr Catherine Knight will be presenting a talk on November 2nd about the history of Totara Reserve as part of this year’s Manawatu Local History Week [click here to download programme]. Entitled “Totara Reserve: a window into Manawatu’s environmental history“, the talk will explore how Totara Reserve was preserved initially for its timber, but within a few decades, when lowland forest elsewhere in the Manawatu had all but vanished, became a prized scenic and recreational reserve. By tracing the history of the reserve, we can better understand the changing attitudes and values of New Zealanders towards our natural heritage. (more…)

Though my implement of choice for environmental history is the pen (or more accurately, the keyboard), I am known to pick up a spade from time to time. Specifically, to plant native trees on land in the Pohangina Valley, about 40 kilometres north-east of the Manawatu provincial “capital” of Palmerston North [click here to view location].

When I do so, I am deeply conscious of the fact that I am undoing the toil of hardworking men who “broke the land in” only a century ago, transforming the Manawatu – at the time described in a government advertisement as “the waste land of the Colony” – into productive farmland. (more…)

I came across this photo on the Manawatu Memory Online site the other day, while looking for an image of early Manawatu history. I was immediately captivated by the image. It is the 1881 photograph of the now long-gone Awapuni Lagoon, located in what is now the south-western corner of Palmerston North city, about where the Awapuni racecourse is today [click here to view map]. (more…)

At envirohistory NZ, we like to review the most popular posts of each quarter (though sometimes – such as on this occasion – a little late). The top five posts of the first quarter of 2011 covered a wide breadth of topics, from the the environmental histories which contributed to the devastating consequences of the seismic disasters of Christchurch and Japan; an urban wetland; a history of whaling in New Zealand; and the Scandanavian settlers of the Manawatu. Here are the topics in order of hits:

1. The Scandinavian settlers of the Manawatu

2. Waitangi Park – an urban wetland recreated

3. Christchurch: a city haunted by its environmental past? (more…)

In 1962, A.G.S. Bradfield published “The Precious Years”, a sequel to his earlier book “Forgotten Days”; both books recounting stories of the “pioneering days of Palmerston North and Districts in the Manawatu”. These are charming little books, in which Bradfield draws on first-hand memories of older Manawatu residents, giving it an authenticity and poignancy that would not be achievable today, nearly half a century on. (more…)

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