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How we divide our landscape

Perhaps nowhere tells more starkly of the duality in our relationship towards the natural environment than Taranaki: the dichotomy of the “productive” and “scenic” landscape. Taranaki is known throughout the world for the almost perfectly conical mountain which rises up through what are otherwise the flattest of plains. This mountain and the region was made famous by its being used as the backdrop for the film, “The Last Samurai”. Indeed, New Zealand was chosen to shoot the movie due to the mountain’s remarkable resemblance to Japan’s Mount Fuji – also a perfectly conical mountain that stands alone on the plains of central Japan.Like the Japanese, who have strong cultural and spiritual conne

How we 'denature' nature

The fact that a 'drain' is a 'waterway' first occurred to me when I was in my late 20s, when I worked in an industrial part of Christchurch. I worked at an electronics company with a long, proud history in Canterbury - Tait Electronics. The site straddled a waterway, and all-too-frequently substances of diverse hues and characteristics from metallic, to oily, to glow-in-the dark could be seen floating on the surface of its tenuously flowing water. Dead ducks and ducklings sometimes added dramatic effect to the composition. Probably, if it wasn't for a man called Ray Vickers, the endearingly cantankerous man in charge of quality control at Tait Electronics, regarded with some trepidation by m

How much do we care about nature we can't see?

I have just been reading Rebecca Macfie's Listener article about the Waitaha River, on the West Coast of the South Island, almost directly across the Alps from Christchurch. It immediately caught my attention - I recognised it from the chapter in New Zealand's Rivers which tells the story of recreational canoeing in New Zealand - I was fortunate to have been able to include a spectacular photograph taken by Zak Shaw of a kayaker airborne over one of the Waitaha River's falls. Little did I realise when I wrote this chapter was that the 'wild' could be taken out of the Waitaha. Westpower has proposed a hydropower scheme on Morgan Gorge - one of the most venerated by kayakers - and it is alread

You are invited to New Zealand's Rivers launch - 17 November

If you haven't received your invitation yet, and would like to come along, please RSVP to Canterbury University Press by 10th November. We are honoured to have award-winning journalist and author, Rebecca Macfie, as guest speaker at the launch. And for those of you in the North Island, don't worry, there is a Wellington event (24th November) too.

What's in Rivers?

A few people have asked what New Zealand's Rivers is about - which is a reasonable question. By way of answering this, here is a sneak-preview of the Contents. But short answer: lots!

'Rivers' has arrived, and it looks great!

This week a preview copy of my new book New Zealand's Rivers: An environmental history, arrived from the printing press overseas. It looks great - we are looking forward to all the stock arriving next week, ready for our launches, in Christchurch and Wellington. Caitlyn is shown here with the book (she is more photogenic than me). She likes it but thinks maybe there a few too many words for her ... likes the pictures though! Download order form here.

Manawatu River history talk

I will be doing a talk about my book Ravaged Beauty, with a focus on the Manawatu River, at the historic Ashhurst Community Library (see above in its original form as the Ashhurst Post Office) on: Thursday, 20th October at 7pm. This will possibly be my last talk about my first book, which is fitting, because I lived in Ashhurst when I first conceived on the idea of doing a history of the Manawatu. I also have the last few books left, so it may peoples' last opportunity to purchase one (at discount, of course). Look forward to seeing some of you there. Download flyer for talk here.

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