Did European settlers loathe the forest? (Part 2)

This post follows on from the previous post Did European settlers loathe the forest? While I am largely satisfied with the idea that European settlers destroyed the forest driven by the need to make productive use of the land, rather than any deep-seated loathing of it or what it represented, this still does not explain the extent to which forest – lowland forest especially – was destroyed. It was, by and large, decimated. Continue reading

Totaranui: the many totara of Te Horo

In the last post, The “Hautere Turnips” of Te Horo, the origin and history of the stone walls, cairns and piles characteristic of this area was discussed. Another unusual feature of Te Horo is the large number of totara groves that can be seen in the fields. Continue reading

The “Hautere Turnips” of Te Horo

Driving through Te Horo recently, on the Kapiti Coast, I was fascinated by the number of stone walls, stone cairns, and stone piles evident in the locality – more reminiscent of my image of the English countryside, than of typical rural New Zealand. I sensed there must be a story there, and I was not disappointed. Continue reading

Tutira: desecration of God’s earth dubbed as improvement?

It seems both ironic, yet at the same time intensely appropriate to me that New Zealand’s first major environmental publication was written by a farmer – one of the many who helped to so dramatically transform the land into the landscape we take for granted today.

Tutira: the story of a New Zealand sheep station (1921) was written by William Herbert Guthrie-Smith about his sheep station in the Hawkes Bay [click here to view location]. In particular, he chronicled – with meticulous detail – the way he developed the land, and the implications that these “improvements” had for the ecological, hydrological and geological systems that had functioned within the landscape for thousands of years.

Tutira became an internationally acclaimed classic of ecological writing, and is generally seen as New Zealand’s first major environmentalist publication.  Continue reading

Canterbury Plains: an ecological “ground zero”

An article in the New Zealand Listener by Rebecca Macfie is entitled “Nature ground zero” and describes an initiative in Canterbury to give “a new lease of life” to “the devastated native flora of the Canterbury Plains” [click here to read article]. The initiative is to identify and encourage the reintroduction of indigenous plant species which provide “ecosystem services” such as the provision of pollen and nectar to attract beneficial insects, improved soil health, weed suppression, the control of pest insects, and greater biodiversity. The project is focused on the Waipara Valley of Northern Canterbury, which is renowned for its vineyards, but has potential to be applied across Canterbury. Continue reading

What is natural? – the tussocklands of Otago

The dramatic tussock-lands of Lindis Pass are one the iconic landscapes of the South Island, and much admired by the traveler on their way from Canterbury to Queenstown or beyond. So iconic has this landscape become, it is hard to believe that while the tussock vegetation is “indigenous”, it is not “natural”. Rather, it is a human-induced landscape.

Lindis Pass is part of an extensive “dryland zone” which extends along much of the eastern part of the South Island [see map below right]. Continue reading

Jeanette Fitzsimons: How our attitudes towards the environment have changed 1974 – 2010

Jeanette Fitzsimons, former co-leader of the Green Party, resigned from Parliament in February this year, after a long and influential political and academic career.  envirohistory NZ thought it would be a good opportunity to ask Jeanette about the major shifts she has observed over the last four decades in the way we as New Zealanders view our environment.

In her response to this question, Jeanette highlights three themes: attitudes towards nuclear power, indigenous forestry and farming.

Continue reading