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Ravaged Beauty

An environmental history of the Manawatu

Only a century and a half ago, the Manawatu was a heavily forested hinterland: the floodplains were a sea of swamps and lagoons, teeming with birdlife, eels and other fish; the hills and terraces were covered with thick impenetrable forest, refuge perhaps to a few lingering moa. But within a few decades, the forest had been reduced to ashes, and the swamps and lagoons were being drained away. Progress marched across the landscape in the form of farms and settlements. 

But it wasn’t long before nature “exacted its revenge”: erosion scarred the hillsides, floods ravaged farms and towns. Pollution of the rivers saw fish dying en masse. How would the people of the region meet these environmental challenges, and what lessons would there be for the future? By “peeling away the layers”, this book tells the intriguing story of the Manawatu’s environmental history, drawn from a rich array of sources, maps and historical images. 

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"... an intelligent and perceptive book, and a plea for better environmental management."

                          J. M. Sherrard Award judges

Winner of Major Award, J.M. Sherrard Award recognising excellence in Local and Regional History 2014–15

Winner of Palmerston North Heritage Trust's award for the best work of history relating to the Manawatu 2013–14

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