Food basket to floodway: the story of Awapuni Lagoon and Mangaone Stream

A few months ago, I posted the story, The city of hidden lagoons: Palmerston (of the north), which explored the watery history of the Manawatu city of Palmerston North, where I grew up. In particular, the post told a little of the story of the long-forgotten Awapuni Lagoon, which once lay in the south-west corner of the city. This post will add to that story, with the history of the Mangaone Stream, which fed into the Manawatu River in the same area of the lagoon. Continue reading

Opiki toll bridge: graceful relic of a thriving flax industry

When driving north along State Highway 56 through the low-lying plains flanking the Manawatu River, a traveller cannot help but notice a suspension bridge to the north of the current road, a tall industrial chimney incongruously positioned at the western end of its span [click here to view map]. Now, its suspension wires dangle without purpose, as if suspended in time as well as space, but this graceful structure still strikes a dignified – if somewhat ghostly profile – on the landscape, hinting at an important role it played in the local economy in the not too distant past. Continue reading

Top search terms for envirohistory NZ

Search terms (the key words you put in Google or any other search engine to find information about a particular topic) are an important way for readers to find a particular website or web-based article. They tell you a lot about what readers of a website are interested in. And envirohistory NZ is no exception. We are really interested in what our readers are interested in!

So, what are the top search terms that brought internet users to envirohistory NZ? Continue reading

Top posts for the quarter

A little late, but hopefully none the worse for it, here are the top five posts for the second quarter of 2010. Two of this quarter’s top 5 were also in the top 5 in the first quarter: Our favourite Californian – the history of the Radiata Pine forestry in NZ came in at number 1 last quarter, while Manawatu River – pollution concerns date back to 1890 came in at number 2. However, this quarter, they have been upstaged by the history of mining story Continue reading

From cesspits to sewers: a tale of wastewater treatment

The post on the history of pollution in the Manawatu River has been one of the most popular posts on this website. This post adds to that story with a history of Palmerston North’s sometimes beleaguered sewerage system.

In the 1870s, the early years of the township, there was no sewage network. Instead, households had “long-drops”, while hotels and boarding houses built cesspits to bury “nightsoil”. By 1877, the odour from these was becoming unbearable in some locations, and in 1879, the borough council prohibited the digging of open cesspits, instead creating a ten acre “sanitary reserve” for the burial of nightsoil and household refuse.

Continue reading

The history of regional government – Part 2: are we entering a new era?

The earlier article A short history of regional government in NZ contained musings about whether there might be clues in the history of regional government in New Zealand that help explain the predicament that Environment Canterbury (ECan) now finds itself in. The article failed to answer this question, but promised a future article to explore this question further. An examination of our more recent history reveals that this – at least in part, may be a product of an increasingly challenging environmental landscape outgrowing the RMA model of regional council focused on end-of-pipe, point-source pollution. Continue reading

Top posts for the quarter

We are approaching the end of March, so it must be time for the top five posts of the first quarter. Coming in at number one – by a healthy margin – is Our favourite Californian – the history of Radiata pine forestry in NZ … who would have thought? At number 2, there continues to be huge interest around our most polluted river – the Manawatu – with only the rare day passing without at least a few hits on this post. Few surprises about the next most popular posts … lawnmowers, Nga Manu Nature Reserve and Jeanette Fitzsimons – perhaps an unlikely combination anywhere else, but not here! Click on the links below to read the posts.

1. Our favourite Californian – the history of Radiata pine forestry in NZ

2. Manawatu River – pollution concerns date back to 1890

3. The lawnmower – the great New Zealand love affair

4. A Kapiti environmental history – Nga Manu

5. Jeanette Fitzsimons: how our attitudes towards the environment have changed 1974 -2010

Manawatu River – pollution concerns date back to 1890

In light of recent media coverage concerning the polluted state of the Manawatu River [click here to view TV news coverage], it is insightful to look back at the river’s history. Even a casual perusal of Papers Past indicates that the vexed issue of pollution of the Manawatu is certainly not a new one.

An article in the Manawatu Herald of 30 May 1890 reports on a meeting held by representatives of local bodies alarmed about Palmerston North Borough Council’s decision to let a contract to discharge the town’s sewerage  into the river. The following are two excerpts:

“[Foxton Mayor] Mr Gower said : The business for this meeting to discuss is the fact that the Borough Council of Palmerston N. have let a contract to convey the sewage of that town into the Manawatu river. It will be for us to consider what steps shall be taken to stop such action… Continue reading