I have often heard the region of Taranaki referred to as the “Kingdom of Taranaki”, owing to the fierce independence displayed by its long-time residents – particularly farmers, and particularly in relation to property rights. While the epithet is used facetiously, it is often underpinned by a sense of admiration for this feisty independence. But is there a reality to this perceived feistiness, and if so, is there some historical reason for it? Continue reading
When Europeans began arriving in the Canterbury region in the early 1800s, most of the swamp forest – dominated by matai, totara and kahikatea (white pine) – that covered much of the Canterbury Plains in previous centuries was gone. It is thought that it had been destroyed by a great fire that swept across the plains during the moa hunter period, leaving only a scattered bush remnants. Continue reading
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
Did Scottish and Irish settlers bring particular land management practices with them to New Zealand? In particular, did the Scottish have a strong conservation ethic which made them “greener” than their fellow-settlers, as is sometimes claimed? These were some of the questions addressed by Professor Tom Brooking (University of Otago) at a conference in Aberdeen which explored the environmental histories of Scottish and Irish migrants to countries of the “New World” such as New Zealand, Australia and Canada.
At the conference, United Kingdom based Environmental Historian Dr Jan Oosthoek interviewed Prof. Brooking and asked him about the environmental practices of Irish and Scottish settlers in New Zealand. He also asked him to talk about what makes New Zealand’s environmental history unusual and unique.
Photo: Scottish-born politician, explorer and conservationist, Sir Thomas McKenzie (standing, centre) with party in Southland, between 1908-14. McKenzie was instrumental in making Fiordland a national park and was a founding member of the Forest & Bird Society. Used with permission from Alexander Turnbull Library ref PA1-0-307-42.