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

How did the Korean War change the NZ landscape?

I have been reading the recently published Seeds of Empire: the Environmental Transformation of New Zealand, and have made a few surprising discoveries. One was how much of an impact the Korean War had on the New Zealand rural landscape. The War led, in fact, to the last phase of geographical expansion of the productive rural landscape, or the “farming frontier”, as the authors put it. 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.

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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