Christchurch’s “Garden of Tranquility”

rocks in the Recovery Garden
“Tomorrow is a new day”: A rock in the Recovery Garden

Christchurch, and especially its Red Zone, it a veritable hotbed of nature and wellbeing projects – the topic of my latest book. A vast area in the eastern parts of Christchurch as well as a number of inner city sites were deemed too risky to reoccupy following the February 2011 earthquake. While this has had tragic consequences for those many people who had to say goodbye to their homes, gardens and neighbourhoods forever, it has created a unique opportunity – unique not only within the context of New Zealand and its history, but also a rare opportunity anywhere in the world. I explored this in my 2016 book New Zealand’s Rivers. Continue reading

New Zealand’s Rivers launch – 17 November

Only a few days to go now until the official launch of New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history, with award-winning journalist Rebecca Macfie. If you would like to join us, RSVP to universitypress@canterbury.ac.nz, or just come along on the night.

“Sadness seeping up from the ground” – A personal experience of a book and a landscape

Pohangina River
A boy and his dog at the Pohangina River – a place of “bliss and wonder”. C. Knight

A few days ago I received the following email from Mark Gibson, who had recently finished reading Ravaged Beauty, and wanted to share with me how it had affected him personally. It was such an eloquent email that I thought it would be worth sharing with envirohistory NZ readers:

“My parents (in their late eighties) gave me the book for my birthday late last year. They live in Palmerston North.  So does my brother who farms on the Tararua foothills behind Tokomaru. Continue reading

The story of the “solitary little trout”

Mr Clark with trout. Ref: 1/1-005184-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.
Mr Clark with trout. Ref: 1/1-005184-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington.

One of the great advantages of the Internet age is that not only is it possible now to find peoples’ PhD theses online, but graduate theses too. In my quest to better understand the acclimatisation of trout and salmon in New Zealand, I came across an honours dissertation by a Canterbury University history student, Jack Kós. Entitled “A most excellent thing”, it documents the introduction of trout to Canterbury in 1867 (the first successful introduction in New Zealand) and the subsequent dissemination of trout throughout New Zealand. Continue reading

Christchurch on the “old delta of the River Waimakariri”

Christchurch, 1860, showing Avon River in the middle ground and Worcester Bridge in the background. Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. 1/2-022720-F
Christchurch, 1860, showing Avon River and Worcester Bridgein the middle ground. Alexander Turnbull Library, ref. 1/2-022720-F

I have been trawling historic newspapers in Papers Past in my efforts to research early European attitudes to New Zealand’s rivers. In the course (unintended pun) of doing so, I stumbled upon a report on the drainage of the city, submitted to the Christchurch City Council in 1864 by the City Surveyor. It is illuminating given the city’s struggle with flooding following the Canterbury earthquakes. Continue reading

Land slips, Kenneth Cumberland, & bitter irony

Sumner cliff slideIn 1944, Kenneth Cumberland, a recently emigrated British geographer published Soil Erosion in New Zealand, a geographical survey of what was fast becoming known as the “erosion epidemic”. Refreshingly, Cumberland does not shrink from expressing strong opinions. In the introduction to his book, he writes:

[New Zealand’s] cultural youth has been characterised to a large extent by the pioneer destruction of the resources of a little known environment…

The people of New Zealand have been reared in the midst of unnecessary losses of soil and become so accustomed to their presence as to take little heed of them. They often come to consider soil erosion as a “normal”, unavoidable occurrence…

Continue reading

What is a groyne? (And what’s it got to do with environmental history?)

Living in Christchurch, I was always vaguely aware of a park in the north-east of the city called “The Groynes”. It seemed an odd, and rather un-illustrious name for a park (given its homonymity with that particular part of the body), but I never took the time to find out what its origin was.

Had I had the curiosity to investigate, I would have found out that “The Groynes” derives its name from large blocks, made from concrete filled woolsacks, which were placed in the Continue reading