An environmental history of the Otago Peninsula : dialectics of ecological and cultural change from first settlement to 1900
West, Jonathan Lewis
Abstract:This environmental history explores dialectics of ecological and cultural change on the Otago Peninsula, from first human settlement to 1900. It argues that Maori and European systems of property defined the shifting economic and ecological boundaries both between people, and between people and their natural environment.Maori and European settlers made similar initial impacts on the Peninsula: depleting a narrow band of resources. This reflected ecological ignorance and a lack of agreed property rights. Subsequent trajectories of ecological change on the Peninsula reflected the development of distinctive property rights regimes. Maori developed flexible and functional property rights that shifted to match their ecological relationships with different places and species. Such property rights underpinned Maori stewardship of their lands and resources. After Europeans arrived in search of commodities, Maori desire to maximise trade with them drove the formation of new ecological relationships. As resources became market commodities, the Otago Peninsula became a trading port, and settlement in the area intensified. Europeans and Maori mingled on the Peninsula, and their mutual accommodation required new property agreements.The 1844 sale of the Otago block split control over the Otago Peninsula. Europeans divided their portion into a clearly defined mosaic of suburban properties and small farms, but regarded all other aspects of the ecology - fisheries, the foreshore, and wild game - as held in common. To improve their properties, settlers rapidly eradicated the existing ecology. Europeans established an agrarian ecology dominated by grasses and dairy cows. Some owners did retain a small patch of forest for fuel, timber, and feed. In 1868 Maori divided their portion into private properties, designed to maximise access to a variety of environments, especially the coast. Their properties, however, were impractical farms, and they were denied control over the coast. By 1900 Europeans leased most of the Maori land as unimproved grazing land. With lesser property rights, they were unwilling to expend as much effort. These areas therefore retained more substantial and intact tracts of forest, wetlands, and tussock.
Degree Name: Doctor of Philosophy
Degree Discipline: History
Publisher: University of Otago
Research Type: Thesis
xiv, 209 leaves :ill. ; 30 cm. Includes bibliographical references. "25 July 2009". University of Otago department: History