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,...

A Pacific approach to conservation: Chief Roi Mata’s Domain, Vanuatu

Elizabeth Kenworthy Teather[1] By all means take this day out to enjoy the boat trip, the local delicacies at lunchtime, and the snorkelling. But if that’s all you get out of it you’ll have missed the point. As the day progresses, you will begin to grasp a worldview very different from the one that we have acquired through our western, science-based education. This alternative worldview perceives the natural world as one that is indivisible from the worlds of spirits, ancestors, and the powerful forces of good and evil. Rather than categorising the environment as separate from the spiritual or emotional world, this is a world view that, as one Ni-Vanuatu put it, is ‘horizontal rather than vertical’, i.e. ‘… the world of the spirit is actually part of the physical world, and there is no notion of a spirit world distinct from the material world’.[2] If we can grasp this idea, the concept of protecting the natural environment takes on new dimensions. I will return to this point at the end of this article. Havannah Harbour is a wide ocean inlet off the east coast of Efate Island, sheltered by Lelepa Island to its west. Smoke from cooking fires sends up isolated plumes into the fringing secondary forest, coconut palms and mountainside vegetable gardens. Vessels of the US fleet, anchored here during the Second World War, are remembered only by older villagers today, but the pale green, well-weathered ‘beach glass’ is testament to the countless Coca Cola bottles that the sailors dumped in the Harbour. What is much more alive and significant in the minds of villagers from the...

Plant trees now! A short history of the Forest Tree Encouragement planting policy of the nineteenth century, particularly in Auckland and Otago

John P. Adam[2] Landscapes are constantly changing, both ecologically and culturally, and the vectors of change occur over many time scales. In order to plan landscapes they must be understood within their spatial and temporal contexts.[3] Daniel J. Marcucci, 2000. It may come as a surprise that in nineteenth century New Zealand, many urban dwellers and some very wealthy pastoralists had a love affair with trees. Millions of mainly exotic trees were planted during the 1870s and 1880s in Auckland, Canterbury and Otago. Earlier in the 1850s, willows and poplars had been planted, followed by eucalyptus and then conifers. The young conical form of the very fast growing gum and pine trees were protected from cattle grazing along roadsides by being enclosed by large timber fences. In 1875, one Auckland horticultural journalist described the types of tree in a Newmarket nursery: ‘First of all was the age of poplars and willows; afterwards the eucalypti came into fashion; and now the run is chiefly on pines – the Insignis particularly.’[4] There was feverish activity in both town and country to shelter roadside ‘runs’, beautify town streets and parks, clean the air of ‘miasmas’ and attempt to cease the drying of the climate by attracting rainfall, the latter by retaining mountain vegetation and planting dense ‘plantations’ on lowlands.[5] There was also additional employment for timber merchants and live tree businesses. Street trees in the Auckland Province In December 1859, during the visit to the Auckland province of the Austrian Novara Expedition there was an editorial ‘Trees for the City’ published in the New Zealander newspaper. It referred to a meeting of...

William Colenso 1811–1899, Victorian polymath

Ian St. George[1] The publication of A. G. Bagnall and G. C. Petersen’s biography of William Colenso in 1949, along with the celebrations at Mokai Patea in 1948, the unveiling of a memorial plaque there in 1951, and the unveiling of the plaque at the site of his mission station at Waitangi (south) in 1959, marked more or less the end of the first century following the missionary phase of Colenso’s life. Activities during the last twelve months have marked 200 years since his birth. In November 2011 the Hawke’s Bay Museum and Art Gallery (HBMAG) and the Colenso Society held a two-day Colenso Bicentennial conference in Napier, Colenso’s home for 45 years. The proceedings of that event are to be published soon. Associated with the Conference were the unveiling of a new portrait of Colenso by Gavin Hurley, to be hung in the Museum that Colenso founded, and the launch of The Hungry Heart: —Travels with William Colenso by Peter Wells, a wonderful melding of accurate historical investigation and insightful subjective interpretation. Otago University Press published Give Your Thoughts Life, a compilation of Colenso’s letters to the editors of newspapers. The Hastings Art Gallery mounted Terrie Reddish’s beautiful exhibition ‘Billy K and me’, and Stuart Webster’s history of the Napier law firm, Sainsbury, Logan and Williams, containing a chapter on Colenso’s will, was launched. Two years earlier the New Zealand Native Orchid Group had published Colenso’s collections, on Colenso’s New Zealand plants held at Te Papa, as well as the letters he sent to Kew and the lists of plants — and birds, bones, bats, bark, belts, bread,...

The battle for the Rai (1898)

Lynne Lochhead[1] New Zealand in the 1890s saw growing support for conservation and scenery preservation, manifested among other ways in the formation of scenery preservation societies. The Dunedin and Suburban Reserves Conservation Society was established in 1888 to improve and preserve the natural attractions of that city. Other societies followed between 1891 and 1899 in Taranaki, Nelson, Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland and Birkenhead. While the role of the Taranaki Scenery Preservation Society is often recalled in relation to the creation of Egmont National Park (1900), much less attention has been given to the Nelson society’s promotion, in 1898, of a part of Marlborough land district as the place for another such park. What follows is a description and analysis of the roles taken by the Nelson Scenery Preservation Society, their supporters and detractors, in the battle for the Rai. The Ronga and Opouri Valleys lie to the north-east of State Highway 6 between Nelson and Blenheim at Rai Valley. The valley floors are now cleared and farmed, with the exception of one very small riverside reserve. Bush remains on the higher elevations of the surrounding ranges, which now form the northern extension of Mt Richmond Forest Park. In 1898, there were no roads through the area and the land was still fully clothed in bush, having been set aside as a forest reserve in 1886. The event which spurred the Nelson Scenery Preservation Society into action over the Ronga and Opouri Valleys was the presentation of a petition to Parliament in 1897 by W. T. Erskine and others asking the Government to purchase a bush tramway belonging to sawmillers Brownlee...