Exploring our environmental history though the remarkable photos of Wildbore

Bush-whacker camp

Now that ‘Beyond Manapouri’ is safely out into the world, some of you may have been wondering what my next book project is.

Well, since you asked ;-), it is a book exploring the life and works of a man called Charles E. Wildbore, who emigrated to New Zealand as a boy in 1874, and settled in the newly-opened Pohangina Valley, in the Manawatu. Wildbore was unremarkable in many ways. Like many other settlers of this era, he and his wife Jane owned a small farm, with a small herd of dairy cows, and some chickens. He also had an apiary and produced honey for the local market.

But what does make Wildbore remarkable are his photographs. These captured the landscape as it was undergoing transformative change: from a densely forested valley to settlements and farms. He is perhaps the only photographer to capture this process of transformation at every stage of the process: bush-whacking, timber-milling, bush burning, sowing of grass seed, farming (among the stumps and incinerated trees) and harvesting of grass seed. A number of his photographs featured in my 2014 book Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatu, but his work is deserving of a book all to itself.

Read more about the book in the Manawatu Standard feature of March 2018.

Release date August 2018. More details to come.

Image: Bush-whackers’ camp at Komako, Pohangina Valley, ca 1904, taken by Charles E. Wildbore. Palmerston North Library.

Launch of “Beyond Manapouri” – photos!

We couldn’t have hoped for a more successful launch of Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand last week at Vic Books, Wellington. Thank you to all who came along – many from far afield. Minister for the Environment David Parker gave a cracker of a speech, with a few laughs in there as well (as evidenced by the photographs!). Photos by Dave Kelly.

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Will we ever see another “Manapouri”?

Lake Manapouri NZ Herald

Has New Zealand failed its environment? is the question asked by Jamie Morton, Science Reporter at the New Zealand Herald, in his piece published yesterday about Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand (Canterbury University Press) [read article here].

In his interview, one of the questions Jamie asked me was:

‘Looking into the near future, what do you think will be the big issues of contention? Is there anything on the horizon that might prove New Zealand’s next Manapouri?’ Continue reading

The importance of ‘leadership’ in environmental governance

For those who missed it, here is a link to the interview about Beyond Manapouri with Kathryn Ryan, Radio New Zealand, in which we discuss the critical importance of free and frank advice and national leadership in environmental governance:

Beyond Manapouri, 50 years of environmental politics

Aratiatia Rapids Clive Madge
Aratiatia Rapids (below Aratiatia Dam) on the Waikato River. Clive Madge

In this interview, Catherine Knight examines the catalogue of missed opportunities since the birthplace of the Manapouri environmental movement. Her new book, ‘Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand’ is particularly critical of the lack of political leadership in the last 25 years. Catherine Knight is an Honorary Research Associate at the School of People, Environment and Planning at Massey University.

Top envirohistory NZ posts of all time

Young Maori girl at Te Ariki Pa. Shows her standing alongside a vegetable garden and a whare. Photograph taken in the 1880s by the Burton Brothers.
Young Maori girl at Te Ariki Pa, near Lake Tarawera, Bay of Plenty. Shows her standing alongside a vegetable garden and a whare. Photograph taken in the 1880s by the Burton Brothers. Not to be reproduced without prior permission from Alexander Turnbull Library ref. 1/2-004619-F.

Long-time envirohistory NZ followers may remember I had a fairly regular post introducing the most popular posts for the quarter or year. It’s been a while since I have done this so I thought as a celebration of envirohistory NZ’s ‘rebirth’, I would present the top 5 posts of ALL TIME (well, since 2009). So here they are:

The Scandinavian settlers of the Manawatu (first published January 2010)

Maori gardening in pre-European New Zealand ((first published June 2010)

Earthquake reveals the forgotten streams of Christchurch (first published May 2011)

Opiki Toll Bridge: graceful relic of a thriving flax industry (first published May 2011)

Waitangi Park – an urban wetland recreated (first published December 2010)