“Doing environmental history” on the Wairau Plain

The Wairau Plain is a triangular-shaped plain which surrounds Blenheim, wedged between mountains and hills to the north and south, and ending with the sea to the east (click here to view map). It was once an extensive swamp, fed by the Wairau River, which originates in the northern ranges of the Southern Alps, and flows north-east into Cloudy Bay, in the Cook Strait. But the swamp has long since been drained, the river controlled to flow in a more “orderly” fashion, and the land turned to agriculture, horticulture and other “productive uses” – most notably, viticulture. Continue reading