What is a groyne? (And what’s it got to do with environmental history?)

Living in Christchurch, I was always vaguely aware of a park in the north-east of the city called “The Groynes”. It seemed an odd, and rather un-illustrious name for a park (given its homonymity with that particular part of the body), but I never took the time to find out what its origin was.

Had I had the curiosity to investigate, I would have found out that “The Groynes” derives its name from large blocks, made from concrete filled woolsacks, which were placed in the Continue reading

Prehistoric revelations of a Manawatu flood

When surveyors laid out the Manawatu town of Palmerston North, they were a little optimistic.

An 1878 [see left] and later 1895 survey map shows sections in the suburbs of Terrace End and low-lying Hokowhitu running right up to – and in some cases beyond – the banks of the meandering Manawatu River. However, the multitude of lagoons in the district showed that the Manawatu River must have flooded, and changed its course, many times throughout the centuries, leaving these “cut-off meander” lagoons as evidence. Continue reading

The town that lost its river: the sad story of Piriharakeke

The history and identity of the Horowhenua coastal town of Foxton is intrinsically linked to the Manawatu River. It was once a bustling port town, with ships loaded with flax, timber and other goods travelling down the river and out to markets in Wellington and beyond. While coastal shipping had largely ceased by the early 20th century, the wharf and the river that it served, was an integral part of the town’s identity and economy. Continue reading

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