ENNZ November 2012

A new bumper issue of Environment and Nature in New Zealand is available  (Vol 7, Numbers 1-2). This is the first issue published under the editorship of Paul...

Living with Fire

Living with Fire People, Nature and History in Steels Creek (CSIRO Publishing, 2012). ISBN: 9780643104792 Late on the afternoon of 7 February 2009, the day that came to be known as Black Saturday, the Kinglake plateau carried a massive conflagration down the fringing ranges into the Steels Creek community. Ten people perished and 67 dwellings were razed in the firestorm. In the wake of the fires, the devastated residents of the valley began the long task of grieving, repairing, rebuilding or moving on while redefining themselves and their community. In Living with Fire, historians Tom Griffiths and Christine Hansen trace both the history of fire in the region and the human history of the Steels Creek valley in a series of essays which examine the relationship between people and place. These essays are interspersed with four interludes compiled from material produced by the community. A deeply moving book, Living with Fire brings to life the stories of one community’s experience with fire, offering a way to understand the past, and in doing so, prepare for the future. Read a fascinating edited extract in Inside Story.   View photos from the launch at Steels Creek, Victoria on Friday 23 November...

Review: Seabird Genius

REVIEW: Neville Peat, Seabird Genius: The Story of L. E. Richdale, the Royal Albatross, and the Yellow-eyed Penguin, Otago University Press, 2011, 279 pp, ISBN 978-1-877578-11-3. Paul Star[1] One way to approach environmental history is through the lives of those who have studied, spoken up or cared for, a country’s environment. The American journal Environmental History over the last decade contains at least 12 articles and 29 reviews of books which deal entirely with a named conservationist or naturalist. These include studies on John Muir and Aldo Leopold, of course, but many others too. There is a similar opportunity to approach New Zealand’s environmental history in this way, but so far it is not much taken. Among nineteenth-century figures, we as yet only have some brief essays exploring The Amazing World of James Hector (2008). The ornithologist Walter Buller, whose attitude to native species was even more ambivalent than Hector’s, has been better served with Ross Galbreath’s excellent life of this Reluctant Conservationist (1989), and so has Richard Henry of Resolution Island (Suzanne and John Hill, 1987). As for T. H. Potts, the staunchest conservationist in New Zealand in that century (and the first to suggest that Resolution Island become a sanctuary), there is my thesis about him (1991), but still no published book. There are no biographies at all of such significant players as Thomas Kirk, W. T. L. Travers and F. W. Hutton. Recently there have been symposia about, William Colenso and John Buchanan, as mentioned elsewhere in this issue of ENNZ. Moving into the twentieth century, my bookshelves have long awaited a biography of the eminent...

Review: Ikawai

REVIEW: R. M. McDowall, Ikawai: Freshwater Fishes in Māori Culture and Economy, Canterbury University Press, Christchurch, 2011, 832 pp, ISBN 978-1-877257-86-5. Ian C. Duggan[1] Bob McDowall was known to every freshwater ecologist in New Zealand, owing to an extremely productive career that included many highly utilised books and journal articles. While environmental historians may have known McDowall best for Gamekeepers for the Nation: The Story of New Zealand’s Acclimatisation Societies, for biologists his major work was New Zealand Freshwater Fishes a: A Guide and Natural History. Within this latter book, McDowall penned a chapter entitled ‘Traditional Māori fisheries’, from which Ikawai: Freshwater Fishes in Māori Culture and Economy found its genesis. Retiring from NIWA in 2000, Ikawai, at close to 800 pages in 38 chapters, was what he described as his ‘retirement’ project. It was McDowall’s final work, completed before his passing in 2011. The main purpose of Ikawai was to provide a synthesis of written information regarding the knowledge and importance of freshwater fish to Māori, to allow more ready access to this scattered material. In the book, McDowall has trolled through various accounts of written history, and critically examined these works using his own vast biological knowledge of New Zealand freshwater fishes, to make sense of the writings. As McDowall argues, the quality of the information in these writings is variable. This is particularly the case for problems caused by varied nomenclature. For example, although inanga is today applied as a common name for one particular fish species (Galaxias maculatus), historically it has been used for a number of different species, varying among iwi. This, we find,...

New Book: Living with Fire

Living with Fire People, Nature and History in Steels Creek by Christine Hansen and Tom Griffiths (CSIRO Publishing, 2012). ISBN: 9780643104792 On 23 November 2012, a new book by Christine Hansen and Tom Griffiths was launched in one of the communities that suffered on Black Saturday.  Entitled Living with Fire: People, nature and history in Steels Creek (CSIRO Publishing), the book is the result of collaboration with people of the Yarra Valley who survived the firestorm and want to rebuild their lives and sense of community identity. Eighty residents of Steels Creek and neighbouring areas gathered on a beautiful evening at the Steels Creek Community Centre, the former primary school, to celebrate the completion of the book.  Living with Fire is produced in full colour throughout and features local photography and art, historical photos, case studies of how families have rebuilt their homes to live with fire, and an analysis of controversial policy issues arising from the firestorm and the subsequent Royal Commission.  Christine and Tom have also written a micro-history of Australian settlement, exploring the deep social and environmental history of the valley over millennia.   View photos from the launch at Steels Creek, Victoria on Friday 23 November 2012.   Below is the back cover blurb from the book: Living with Fire Late on the afternoon of 7 February 2009, the day that came to be known as Black Saturday, the Kinglake plateau carried a massive conflagration down the fringing ranges into the Steels Creek community. Ten people perished and 67 dwellings were razed in the firestorm. In the wake of the fires, the devastated residents of the valley began the long task of grieving,...