Forest clearance in 1880s New Zealand – the views of Mrs Robert Wilson

In 1962, A.G.S. Bradfield published “The Precious Years”, a sequel to his earlier book “Forgotten Days”; both books recounting stories of the “pioneering days of Palmerston North and Districts in the Manawatu”. These are charming little books, in which Bradfield draws on first-hand memories of older Manawatu residents, giving it an authenticity and poignancy that would not be achievable today, nearly half a century on. Continue reading

Need a job done? See new “Services” page

A new Services page outlines the services that are now on offer by Catherine Knight, the convener and primary contributor to the envirohistory NZ website. These services include: research, policy and analysis, writing, editing, proofreading and Q&A. Catherine is also able to offer expert Japanese to English translations! See the Services page for more details of services and to view Catherine’s portfolio.

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 Scandinavian settlers of the Manawatu

In 1870, Colonial Treasurer Julius Vogel introduced a public works and immigration scheme, under which suitable immigrants would be settled along the projected lines of the road and railway. The idea was that the construction work for this infrastructure would support the settlers until they could develop farms on the blocks of land allotted to them.

At this time, the Manawatu and western Hawkes Bay was still largely undeveloped, in most part covered in dense impenetrable forest. For these areas, Vogel was keen to recruit settlers from Scandinavia, who were reputed for their skill as foresters and axemen. It also appears that he may have also been influenced by an early, and rather illustrious settler in the Manawatu – Ditlev Gothard Monrad, former premier of Denmark. Monrad had immigrated to New Zealand, along with his family, in 1866, in a kind of self-imposed exile. Clearly not afraid of hard work, he found a small clearing on the banks of the Manawatu River, in Karere (near Longburn) and, using timber from the surrounding thick forest, built a home and then went on to develop a farm. Continue reading