Map of “Middle Island” 1840

I came across this map in Mick Strack’s essay “Bounding the Land: Cadastral framework on the Taieri” in the recently published “Making Our Place”, and it intrigued me.

It is a map of the South Island, sketched by Edmund Halswell around 1841 from an unidentified Ngai Tahu source. The map shows the South Island so elongated and distorted in shape, that is almost unrecognisable. But is precisely this cartographic inaccuracy which reveals valuable information about how Maori interacted and viewed the land before European colonisation. Continue reading

The “Kingdom of Taranaki” – is there truth behind the epithet?

I have often heard the region of Taranaki referred to as the “Kingdom of Taranaki”, owing to the fierce independence displayed by its long-time residents – particularly farmers, and particularly in relation to property rights. While the epithet is used facetiously, it is often underpinned by a sense of admiration for this feisty independence. But is there a reality to this perceived feistiness, and if so, is there some historical reason for it? Continue reading