A historic day for Kapiti: the opening of Whareroa Farm

Today, the 30th April 2011, was a day of great triumph and celebration for many people in the Kapiti Coast community, with the official opening of 440 hectare Whareroa Farm Reserve, between Paraparaumu and Paekakari [click here to view location]. It is certainly not every day that a new recreational and nature reserve is opened to the public, and Whareroa Farm has only become such a reserve as a result of persistent lobbying by the local community and the ongoing work of one community-based organisation, the Whareroa Guardians Trust. Continue reading

The abandonment of Palliser Bay – a prehistoric case of environmental degradation?

Archaeological evidence shows that Maori occupied the south-east coast of the North Island, including Palliser Bay, by the 14th century. Research in the 1970s by Foss and Helen Leach of Otago University showed that people lived in small settlements at stream and river mouths. The people were both gardeners and hunters and gatherers, reliant on what they could take from the forest, rivers, streams, coastal lagoons and the sea – the main sources of food were likely to have been small birds, fish, seals and kūmara (sweet potato). There is evidence of about 300 people in six separate communities on the eastern side of the Palliser Bay. Yet by the 1600s these settlements had gone. Continue reading

Maori gardening in pre-European NZ

Horticulture was integral to pre-European Maori culture. As Bee Dawson states in “A history of gardening in New Zealand”, the ability to produce reliable garden crops influenced the settlement patterns of early Maori. Thus, the warmer areas of the North Island, particularly those with fertile volcanic soils, supported much larger populations than those further south where both climate and terrain made horticulture less viable. The northern two-thirds of the North Island proved most rewarding in terms of horticultural production, while Banks Peninsula in the South Island marked the southern limit of Maori horticulture. Continue reading

Kapiti Island – an environmental history “microcosm” – Part 1

Kapiti Island is the summit of a submerged mountain range created by seismic activity 200 million years ago. It is 10 km long and about 2 km wide, covering an area of 1,965 hectares. The highest point, Tuteremoana, is 521 metres above sea-level.

The history of Kapiti Island neatly encapsulates – both geographically and temporally – the key phases of New Zealand’s environmental history. In a relatively short space of time it has been the object of intensive exploitation that saw its natural resources stretched to their limits, before entering a new phase as a predator-free haven for our rarest native birds. As such, it is now on the forefront of New Zealand’s battle to preserve its natural heritage. But, a lesser known part of its environmental history is the hundreds of years that it sustainably supported a small Maori population. Continue reading