Basin Reserve: how an earthquake turned a lagoon into a cricket ground

The “Basin Reserve” sports ground in central Wellington is a well-known and unavoidable landmark, as a convergence point for four major roads which circle around its perimeter, as well as for fans of “the gentile sport”. However few are likely to be aware of its fascinating environmental history, and how it came to be a sports ground. Continue reading

Christchurch – a city built on buried forests?

I have been reading Kenneth B. Cumberland’s 1981 book Landmarks recently. The book, which was published in parallel with a television series of the same name,* is a colourful presentation (both in the literal and metaphorical sense)  of Cumberland’s views on New Zealand’s environmental history, supplemented by many photographs and illustrations. Some of the archaeological and palaoecological information is now somewhat outdated (for instance, the dates that humans first settled New Zealand and other radio-carbon dates), but it is nevertheless a highly worthwhile read – Continue reading

“Doing environmental history” on the Wairau Plain

The Wairau Plain is a triangular-shaped plain which surrounds Blenheim, wedged between mountains and hills to the north and south, and ending with the sea to the east (click here to view map). It was once an extensive swamp, fed by the Wairau River, which originates in the northern ranges of the Southern Alps, and flows north-east into Cloudy Bay, in the Cook Strait. But the swamp has long since been drained, the river controlled to flow in a more “orderly” fashion, and the land turned to agriculture, horticulture and other “productive uses” – most notably, viticulture. Continue reading