An egalitarian paradise – hunting in New Zealand

In Hunting: a New Zealand History, Kate Hunter explores the peculiar and unique development of hunting culture in New Zealand following its European settlement. She describes how working class settlers saw in New Zealand a chance to escape deprivation and class-based inequalities.

Many immigrants wrote back to family and friends enthusing about their freedom to hunt and fish, free from Britain’s game laws – which had since the 1670s restricted hunting to all but the aristocracy. The letters back to England of working class immigrants in the 1870s were full of stories about hunting pigs, goats, rabbits and birds, without fear of prosecution from the local constabulary. Continue reading

It’s not easy being green – on being a frog in New Zealand

On top of struggling for their own survival, New Zealand’s native frogs have an additional responsibility on their very little shoulders – being a barometer of forest health. Like other frogs around the world, our frogs are barometers of overall environmental health. That is because frogs breath through very sensitive skin and are more susceptible to disease, pollution and environmental changes. A decline in frog populations is usually an early signal of something awry in the environment – and potential threats to other animals, including people. But in New Zealand, three of our four remaining indigenous frogs are forest-dwellers – preferring shady, moist and undisturbed forests. Therefore, they also act as a measure of the health and distribution of our indigenous forest environments. Continue reading

Comparing histories – nature conservation in Japan

Geographically, Japan and New Zealand are strikingly similar: they are both longitudinally narrow and latitudinally long archipelagos of similar land-mass, and of comparable distance from the respective poles. They are both prone to seismic activity, and predominantly mountainous.

However, unlike New Zealand, Japan’s uplands are still largely forested – about 69 per cent of Japan is under forest, albeit over half of it comprised of exotic coniferous species. Continue reading

Back from extinction – the Takahe

In November 1948, the takahe, which had not been sighted for 50 years and long thought extinct, was discovered in Fiordland’s remote Murchison Mountains. The discovery was made not by a scientist or wildlife specialist, but by Southland medical doctor Geoffrey Orbell. A keen tramper and hunter, Orbell was convinced that the takahe was the source of strange bird calls he had heard when tramping in the area. His tracking and locating of three takahe in 1948 caused an immense stir among the public, and the government quickly closed off this remote part of Fiordland National Park in an effort to protect this last known population.

The excitement this discovery must have caused, among the public and wildlife practitioners alike, is hard to imagine. The following excerpt, from the Southland News in February 1897 – more than half a century before this discovery – demonstrates that even then, most people were resigned to the likelihood that the takahe would follow the same inevitable path to extinction as the huia: Continue reading

One landscape – two environmental histories

Two environmental histories converge in one landscape. In the foreground is the stunningly beautiful Lake Rotoroa, one of the two lakes in Nelson Lakes National Park, surrounded by wetland vegetation, transitioning into beech forest. In the background is a commercial pine plantation, with one slope scarred by clear-cutting. Nelson Lakes National Park, established in 1956, encompasses 102,000 hectares of the northern most Southern Alps. The lakes were formed by massive glaciers gouging out troughs in the mountainous headwaters of the Buller River during the last Ice Age. The vegetation is predominantly beech, with the red and silver species growing in lower, warmer sites and mountain beech at higher altitudes. The forests are habitat to South Island kaka (a large parrot), tomtits, robins and the tiny rifleman, New Zealand’s smallest bird.

[Photo: Lake Rotoroa, Nelson Lakes National Park, by Rainer Kant]

[Source: Department of Conservation]

German voices of dissent against “senseless destruction”

A previous article explored whether Scottish settlers brought with them certain conservationist attitudes and practices [click here to view], but there were also other nationalities that stood out among those urging a more cautious approach to the use of our natural resources in the early years of New Zealand’s European colonisation – one of the most prominent being the German voice.

In Our Islands, Our Selves, David Young introduces a number of German figures who spoke out in protest against what they saw as wasteful and wreckless treatment of New Zealand’s natural resources, including wildlife. Continue reading

envirohistory NZ podcast – episode 2 out now!

Episode 2 of the envirohistory NZ podcast series is out now!   The envirohistory NZ podcasts are produced bi-monthly (or thereabouts) and are found on the Podcasts page. These podcasts will discuss themes explored in recent articles on the website and will also include interviews with people researching or “making” environmental history. They will be uploaded on to iTunes soon so that you can download on to your iPod or other Mp3 player for your listening convenience. We will let you know the details as soon as they are uploaded. In the mean time, click on the link below to have a listen to episode 2!

19 January 10 – Episode 2 – The top 10 posts of 2009– (12:11 mins)