Treasure in a charred survivor

Bruce Park Reserve06

The kahikatea in which the geocache is hidden. Note the brown char marks around cavity.

On our way back from a recent trip to the Ruapehu Mountain district, we stopped at Bruce Park Reserve, near Hunterville. This was a forest reserve that I had read about in David Young’s conservation history of New Zealand Our Islands, Our Selves, and I had long wanted to visit it. To help entice my husband – an avid geocacher – to stop, I declared “there is sure to be a geocache in there!” Somewhat reluctantly, he relented, but his acquiescence paid off, because this turned out to be his favourite geocache of the trip. Continue reading

When is a fence not a fence?

I have been reading The Life and Times of Sir James Wilson of Bulls, by L. J. Wild recently. James Wilson, an immigrant from Scotland, was a pioneering sheep farmer in the Rangitikei in the late 1800s.

Reading his diary entries from the days when he was in the early stages of developing of Ngaio Farm, just east of Bulls, it is clear that fencing was a major consideration when establishing a farm – and the types of fences common at that time would not necessarily be familiar to us today. Continue reading

A history of environmental history in New Zealand

In 2003, Paul Star, an Otago-based environmental historian, published a paper outlining developments in the field of environmental history in New Zealand, how it fits in to the international context, and some thoughts about the areas in which the field would most benefit from further research (“New Zealand Environmental History: A Question of Attitudes”).

It is a great little article, written in Star’s characteristic reader-friendly, jargon-free style, and I would recommend it to anyone with an interest in this field. Continue reading

Coast: three generations of men on the Rangitikei coast

“Coast” is a novel written by David (Carnegie) Young about three generations of men; their relationships with each other and the wild Rangitikei coast. Strong themes running through the book are ancestry and belonging (and acceptance). The narrative is largely based in the Rangitikei: in the township of Marton and the small beach settlement of Koitiata, near Turakina [click here to view map], spanning from around the turn of the 20th century through to today (or thereabouts).

The Turakina River features prominently in the narrative: as a destructive and unpredictable force which takes life in the dramatic opening scenes of the novel; as a source of food and recreation for Maori and European alike; as an ancestral place for Maori; as a source of historical relics (including shoes of the victims of the Tangiwai train disaster); and, as a dynamic and powerful forger of the landscape. Continue reading

“This sacrifice will bring retribution” – deforestation and its consequences

The following excerpts about deforestation  in New Zealand are from the Evening Post, 29 March 1910. They are just as relevant today as they were 100 years ago.

“This sacrifice will bring retribution,” was a recent comment of The Times in relation to the shortsighted Australasian practice of “improving” forest land by wholesale destruction of the native woods. The process is so gradual that it does not impress as it should the resident who sees it year after year going on before his eyes; but there are those who can look back forty or fifty years and recall the aspect of wooded hills, vocal with the song of native birds, now waste and barren, scarred with landslips, not even affording pasture — an eyesore instead of a beauty… Continue reading