“Reading this book will likely change your perception of the New Zealand environment. It is a must-read for all New Zealand landscape architects, planners, resource management lawyers and indeed all New Zealanders that want to achieve a better future for their children and their children’s children.”
This was the conclusion of Peter Kensington, planner and landscape architect in a recent review of Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand (Canterbury University Press).
Madi Kensington, aged 11 years old, also reviewed the book, and concluded:
“This book perfectly explains how New Zealand has changed its view on the environment many times over the past 50 years. In the early days, our environment was regarded as something our government didn’t need to worry about, but as the years wore on, things started getting more serious. Knight has explained these issues with perfectly-worded descriptions and given real examples, making for convincing reading.”
While researching the clues for a cache at Pohangina wetlands the other day, I stumbled across this not-so-fun fact: scientists estimate that more than 98 of percent of kahikatea forest, which grew in lowland, swampier areas, has been lost nationwide since European colonisation of New Zealand. In the Manawatu region, where wetlands once covered much of the river plains extending from Palmerston North out to the coast, more than 90 per cent of wetlands have been lost. This is a tragic legacy of European settlement, but also makes the Pohangina Wetlands all the more special. Continue reading →
Reflecting 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 →
In 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.
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 →
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 →
The fourth cache in the now “Wildly-Famous-in-Pohangina” Wildbore geocaching series is at the top of Church Hill, near the site of the eponymous church.
By the end of the 19th century, the population of Awahou, on the eastern side of Pohangina River, had grown to a healthy number, and the community felt it was high time for a church to service the Awahou community.
St. Aidan’s Church was opened in November 1902, a modest but attractive timber church accommodating 74 people. Continue reading →
The third cache in the Wildbore geocache series is hidden near the site of this photograph, taken by Charles E. Wildbore, showing two Valley men pulling a milled log across the Te Awaoteatua Stream bridge at the bottom of Church Hill, Awahou.
The road down to the stream was realigned in the late 1960s/early 1970s, but it can still be seen in the face of the hill when looking north from the bridge (it is also visible as a contour in Google maps). Continue reading →