On a recent trip from Rotorua to Hamilton, I stopped to look at what I thought at the time was a section of Waikato River, just west of State Highway 1, south-east of Cambridge [click here to view map]. Waikato River is New Zealand’s longest river, running 425 kms from its source on the slopes of Mount Ruapehu, through Lake Taupo, New Zealand’s largest lake, then flowing through the Waikato Plains before emptying into the Tasman Sea. I was therefore surprised to see a sign at a jetty informing me that this was in fact a lake – Lake Karapiro.

But something didn’t add up – it seemed remarkably “river-like” for a lake. (more…)

Today, the Petone and Lower Hutt area is an intense conglomeration of industrial, commercial and residential buildings and infrastructure – interconnected by motorways, roads and railways – concentrated within the confines of the sea to the south and the steeply rising hills of the valley to the west and east. Within this landscape of steel, glass, concrete and asphalt, it is hard to believe that only 170 years ago, this was thickly forested floodplain and estuary, rich with teeming birdlife – including the now extinct huia, and the endangered kokako. (more…)

The post on the history of pollution in the Manawatu River has been one of the most popular posts on this website. This post adds to that story with a history of Palmerston North’s sometimes beleaguered sewerage system.

In the 1870s, the early years of the township, there was no sewage network. Instead, households had “long-drops”, while hotels and boarding houses built cesspits to bury “nightsoil”. By 1877, the odour from these was becoming unbearable in some locations, and in 1879, the borough council prohibited the digging of open cesspits, instead creating a ten acre “sanitary reserve” for the burial of nightsoil and household refuse.

(more…)

Last year, Lindsay Gow retired from his position as Deputy Secretary of the Ministry for the Environment after more than two decades leading environmental policy work in New Zealand. envirohistory NZ asked Lindsay to share his thoughts on how New Zealanders’ attitudes towards the environment and environmental issues have changed over this period:

The first change has been in public and political opinion.

20 years and more ago environmental policy was very much the junior partner in the both government and public eyes.  Although the establishment of the Ministry for the Environment and the Department of Conservation came out of a reaction to the rapacious “think big” developments, it was not easy to get policy issues and ideas launched.  We found that the onus of proof was against, not in favour of environmental protection. (more…)

In light of recent media coverage concerning the polluted state of the Manawatu River [click here to view TV news coverage], it is insightful to look back at the river’s history. Even a casual perusal of Papers Past indicates that the vexed issue of pollution of the Manawatu is certainly not a new one.

An article in the Manawatu Herald of 30 May 1890 reports on a meeting held by representatives of local bodies alarmed about Palmerston North Borough Council’s decision to let a contract to discharge the town’s sewerage  into the river. The following are two excerpts:

“[Foxton Mayor] Mr Gower said : The business for this meeting to discuss is the fact that the Borough Council of Palmerston N. have let a contract to convey the sewage of that town into the Manawatu river. It will be for us to consider what steps shall be taken to stop such action… (more…)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 380 other followers