Catherine Knight. Paperback, 323 pages.
Rivers are central to our identity as New Zealanders. They shape our landscape, forming the fertile plains we live and farm on, and provide the water that is so critical to our lives and economy. Since Europeans first settled in New Zealand, rivers have been exploited for both personal and public gain. We have taken water from rivers, returning it laden with pollutants; we have harnessed them for irrigation and to generate electricity. After nearly two centuries of taking our rivers for granted, we are facing a crisis. New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history tells the story of how we got to this point. It examines:
- The richly textured relationship between Māori and awa (rivers)
- How European settlers perceived and utilised rivers
- The introduction of trout and salmon, and the role of acclimatisation societies as the earliest advocates for our rivers
- The hydroelectricity schemes, which reached their peak in the ‘Think Big’ era
- Recreational boating, including the invention of the jet boat on our unique braided rivers
- The environmental movement and protection of rivers
- The impact of agriculture on rivers
- The efforts of Māori to assert mana (authority) over their awa through Treaty claims and other means.
New Zealand’s Rivers is a must-read for all New Zealanders interested in the future of our environment and economy. Confronting the history of our complex – and often conflicted – relationship with rivers is critical to building a shared understanding of how to better manage this precious resource into the future.