I have been reading Kenneth B. Cumberland’s “Landmarks” (1981), a story of the human transformation of New Zealand. One of the many characters who makes his appearance in this story is Chew Chong, a pigtailed pedlar who had come to Otago, New Zealand in 1867, during the gold boom. He eventually made his way up to Taranaki, where a fledgling dairy industry was becoming established. (more…)

I have often heard the region of Taranaki referred to as the “Kingdom of Taranaki”, owing to the fierce independence displayed by its long-time residents – particularly farmers, and particularly in relation to property rights. While the epithet is used facetiously, it is often underpinned by a sense of admiration for this feisty independence. But is there a reality to this perceived feistiness, and if so, is there some historical reason for it? (more…)

Oil exploration in Taranaki has been in the news lately, with Greymouth Petroleum and international companies expressing strong interest in the oil reserves under Taranaki soils and sea-bed. Until recently I had assumed that oil exploration was a phenomenon of the 20th century – until a Taranaki resident informed me that it was being extracted around New Plymouth as early as the 1800s. (more…)

Nowhere tells more starkly of the duality in our relationship towards the natural environment than Taranaki: the dichotomy of the “productive” and “scenic” landscape.

Taranaki is known throughout the world for the almost perfectly conical mountain which rises up through what are otherwise the flattest of plains. This mountain and the region was made famous by its being used as the backdrop for the film, “The Last Samurai”. Indeed, New Zealand was chosen to shoot the movie due to the mountain’s remarkable resemblance to Japan’s Mount Fuji – also a perfectly conical mountain that stands alone on the plains of central Japan. (more…)

In Nga UruoraEcology and History in a New Zealand Landscape (Chapter 3 – “The Riverbend”), Geoff Park tells the history of the riverine forests of Mokau, a river which flows from its source in the forest on the slopes of the Rangitoto Ranges, out to sea at the Taranaki Bight, just north of the boundary between Taranaki and Waikato [click here to view map]. Here is one of the very few places left in the North Island where coastal forest remains intact down to the sea. (more…)

Children at Toko Primary School, Taranaki, planting trees on Arbor Day 1900. In the fields around them, the devastating effects of the milling and burning of forest that was occurring throughout the country can clearly be seen. [Photo not to be reproduced without the permission of Alexander Turnbull Library, ref 1/2-003378-F. Acknowledgments to David Young for sharing this poignant photo in Our Islands Our Selves.]

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