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 Some of the archaeological and palaoecological information is now somewhat outdated (for instance, the dates that humans first settled New Zealand and other radio-carbon dates), but it is nevertheless a highly worthwhile read – Continue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

Exploring NZ’s environmental history through maps

I feel slightly embarrassed to admit this (and therefore perhaps shouldn’t), but I have only recently discovered the cartographic and other visual delights which lie between the sturdy covers of the New Zealand Historical Atlas, published in 1997.

Of course, I had seen it referenced many times in scholarship on New Zealand’s environmental history, but (and this is where my less than favourable encounters with high-school geography may be revealed), I had imagined a dusty old book of the traditional style maps that only a dyed-in-the-wool geographer or cartographer would get excited about. Continue reading

Coast: three generations of men on the Rangitikei coast

“Coast” is a novel written by David (Carnegie) Young about three generations of men; their relationships with each other and the wild Rangitikei coast. Strong themes running through the book are ancestry and belonging (and acceptance). The narrative is largely based in the Rangitikei: in the township of Marton and the small beach settlement of Koitiata, near Turakina [click here to view map], spanning from around the turn of the 20th century through to today (or thereabouts).

The Turakina River features prominently in the narrative: as a destructive and unpredictable force which takes life in the dramatic opening scenes of the novel; as a source of food and recreation for Maori and European alike; as an ancestral place for Maori; as a source of historical relics (including shoes of the victims of the Tangiwai train disaster); and, as a dynamic and powerful forger of the landscape. Continue reading