I recently sent this photo from the envirohistory NZ banner to the Stirling University Research Centre for Environmental History and Policy to be used on their related links page. When I did so, I thought it may be a good opportunity to share the “back story” of the photo.

The photo is taken by veteran photographer, Paul Knight, of a farm just north of the Horowhenua town of Levin [click here to view location]. The farm, called Nikaunui, meaning “many (or big) nikau palms” in Maori, is a large sheep and beef farm, owned by the Kilsby family,* a family with a long history in the district. (more…)

Papaitonga is a dune lake in the Horowhenua coastal plain. It is surrounded by a very rare remnant of coastal north island forest. Just south of Levin, the 135 hectare Papaitonga Scenic Reserve is a little known but ecologically and historically remarkable place [click here to view map].

The reserve contains the only intact sequence from wetland to mature dry terrace forest in Wellington and Horowhenua. It is an important refuge for birds that depend on wetlands or lowland forests for their survival. Papaitonga is home to waterfowl and wading birds as well as forest species on the lake’s margins. However, like many remnant wetland forests, the health of this wetland forest is threatened by a receding water table. The reserve is surrounded by farmland which draws on large volumes of water for irrigation. (more…)

Through time, not only has our environment been transformed, but also the way we perceive it and the words we use to describe it. No example illustrates this better than the “swamp” to “wetland” transformation. When European settlement of New Zealand began in earnest about 150 years ago, about 670,000 hectares of freshwater wetlands existed. By the 20th century, this had been reduced to 100,000 hectares. (more…)

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