I was flabbergasted when I found out about this piece of New Zealand’s history. I don’t know what shocked me more: our government’s part in destroying an island and a people’s economy and way of life, or the fact that this history is so little known by New Zealanders.
New Zealand, along with Britain and Australia, gained the Pacific island of Nauru and its rich phosphate reserves as part of the spoils of the First World War. Over successive decades, these countries strip-mined most of the island for its phosphate, used to make fertiliser. This was a great boon for our agricultural industry (see also The “grasslands revolution”) , but Nauru paid a very high price.
About 80% of the island is now uninhabitable. This image shows the narrow habitable “green belt” surrounding the area mined for phosphate.
See also Nauru: Paradise well and truly lost