Nauru: a picture says it all

Nauru IslandI 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. Continue reading

The “grasslands revolution”

Grass is integral to our agricultural sector, and therefore to our economy. Pasture grasses are exotic species introduced from Europe, and not always suited to our soils or environment. So how is it that pasture-farming has been so successful in New Zealand, despite the relative lack of fertile soils? The answer is phospate-based fertiliser. But another fragile island environment has paid a high price for the artificial fertility of our soils.

As Brooking, Hodge and Wood outline in “The grasslands revolution reconsidered” (Chapter 11, Environmental Histories of New Zealand), the term “grasslands revolution” was coined to celebrate the phenomenal increase in farming productivity which occurred, despite only a small increase in land. Continue reading