Paul Star

November 2013 sees the launch of Making a New Land, edited by Eric Pawson and Tom Brooking and published by Otago University Press: a notable event, particularly since this remains the only example of a book devoted exclusively to New Zealand environmental history in all its aspects.  While marketed as a new edition of Environmental Histories of New Zealand, published a decade ago by Oxford University Press, Melbourne, a third of the chapters in Making a New Land are altogether new, and the rest (except in two cases in which the authors have died) have been subject to careful revision.

In both editions, in the chapter on New Zealand environmental law, Nicola Wheen repeats the common understanding that ‘the growing politicisation of the environment … was kick-started by the Manapouri controversy’.  Nowhere in the book is there mention of the debate surrounding another power scheme of the same period, in the Waikato region.  In the first article in this issue of ENNZ, Jo Whittle meticulously analyses the lead-up to construction of Huntly Thermal Power Station, convincingly showing (to again quote Nicola) that ‘The impact of Manapouri should not be underestimated but must be placed in context’.

In New Zealand’s environmental history, not only some events but also some people have received less mention than is their due.  Last year, when reviewing Neville Peat’s biography of Lance Richdale for ENNZ, I instanced five other individuals who had ‘studied, spoken up or cared for’ New Zealand’s environment, but whose biographies have yet to be written.  Since then, some progress has been made in each case, and the present issue of ENNZ includes three interim results: Bill Howie assesses the continuing significance of Kenneth Cumberland’s Landmarks; Andrew Gregg details the themes to be highlighted in his biography of Leonard Cockayne; and Simon Nathan describes preparatory work on the transcription of James Hector’s correspondence.

In addition, I myself am returning to material about Thomas Potts, gathered over more years than I care to mention, and Colin Miskelly, Te Papa’s Curator of Terrestrial Vertebrates, continues to follow ‘in the footsteps of Edgar Stead’.  Whenever he has the chance, Colin travels to the offshore islands visited by this early Canterbury naturalist, re-taking Stead’s photos from the same photo-point and noting ecological changes that have occurred since Stead’s time. The fascinating results can be found at blog.tepapa.govt.nz

This issue of ENNZ also contains three reviews, one of a popular work and two of books of an academic nature.  Ian Tyrrell’s consideration of a volume on the world’s national parks ranks as a ‘review essay’, since his comments provide a  valuable summary of information on one of the fundamental ideas studied by environmental historians.  Not enough work on New Zealand’s environmental history is comparative.  This essay only briefly mentions New Zealand’s national parks, but surely suggests how much our study of them would gain from describing their development more firmly within a global context.

James Beattie, in Empire and Environmental Anxiety (which Ian also reviews in this issue) seeks out the global context when discussing, among other subjects, the course of forestry practice in nineteenth-century New Zealand.  Similarly, whenever a full study is attempted of the relationships between New Zealand’s ‘energy history’, environment and environmentalism, let’s hope that it will compare (for instance) not only the debates about Manapouri and Huntly within this country, but also the interchange of ideas between those opposing the Manapouri hydro scheme and their counterparts in Tasmania who, at much the same time, unsuccessfully opposed the flooding of Lake Pedder.