Exploring our history through the wonderful world of geocaching

Wildbore geocaching

A window into the long lost, densely forested lowlands of Manawatū has been opened by an author using antique glass plate negatives and new geocaching applications.

Pohangina author Catherine Knight’s main focus is environmental history which led to her fourth book Wildbore: A photographic legacy.Wildbore Cover web

Read the remainder of the story and watch the video on the New Zealand Herald website.

For more information on Wildbore: A photographic legacy (Totara Press), including where to purchase it, go to the Totara Press webpage

Have we been too hands off when it comes to our environment?

Auckland city.jpgReflecting on what I learnt from researching the last 50 years of environmental policy and management in New Zealand, a question has arisen in my mind that is – I believe – a vitally important one, with strong relevance to the environmental challenges we face today. That is, in rejecting “top-down” town planning, as represented by the Town and Country Act 1977 and its predecessors, and embracing an environmental management regime that focused on minimising effects of activities once they happen, did the government abandon its legitimate mandate to shape a better future via environmental planning? Continue reading

Is New Zealand on the verge of a tipping point?

Beyond Manapouri cover webIn a recent article published in George Washington University’s online journal History News Network, I argue that New Zealand may be on the cusp of a tipping point – not in the state of our environment, but rather, in terms of New Zealanders’ awareness of the gravity of environmental issues we face and the need to make meaningful interventions.

I conclude my article with the hope that a future historian will be able to reflect back on this period, and identify it as a watershed era in terms of environmental awareness and action – a ‘tipping point’ in environmental history, much like the Save Manapouri Campaign was half a century ago.

Do you agree? You can read the full article on the History News Network website.

Totara Reserve: from exploitation to preservation

car in pohangina
Car in Totara Reserve circa 1916-20. One of Charles E. Wildbore’s most iconic photographs. Palmerston North Library

Totara Reserve is situated in the Pohangina Valley on the eastern side of the Pohangina River, in the Manawatu [click here to view location]. It encompasses an area of 348 hectares, much of it podocarp forest, made up of totara, matai, rimu and kahikatea, as well as some black beech.

Its history as a reserve began in 1886, when it was gazetted under the provisions of the State Forests Act (1885) as a ‘reserve for growth & preservation of timber and for river conservation purposes’. This at a time when the area was been ‘opened up’ for settlement – settlement in the Pohangina Valley area began with Ashhurst in March 1879.

In 1932, a portion of the Reserve was designated as a Scenic Reserve under the provisions of the Scenery Preservation Act 1908, and vested in the Pohangina County Council. Continue reading

Scorched forest farm – Wildbore cache no.7

No. 1 Line
The Neilson Farm on No. 1 Line, Awahou in 1896. Photographed by Charles E. Wildbore. Palmerston North Library.

Number 7 in the Wildbore geocache series is on No. 1 Line on the eastern side of the Pohangina Valley.  It was on No. 1 Line that Charles E. Wildbore took one of his earliest surviving landscape photographs, in 1896. The photograph starkly captures the brutal transformation of the landscape by fire. A farmhouse is surrounded by the incinerated limbs and trunks of the forest trees, that until only a few years previously covered the hills and river terraces of the entire valley. While we cannot see this from the photograph, this would likely have been a landscape of oppressive silence – any birds that were able to escape the conflagration would likely have taken refuge in the nearby Ruahine foothills, while introduced birds, such as the sparrow, thrush and blackbird were yet to colonise the valley in substantial numbers. Continue reading