New book an environmental history of NZ rivers

18 October 2016

A new book on New Zealand's rivers sets out to inform current debate about the sustainable use of New Zealand's fresh water by exploring the history of our rivers.

New book an environmental history of NZ rivers

Author and environmental historian Catherine Knight says the state of rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand is highly topical and an issue that affects everyone.

New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history sets out to inform current debate about the sustainable use of New Zealand’s fresh water by exploring the history of our often conflicted relationship with our rivers.

Author and environmental historian Catherine Knight says the state of rivers in Aotearoa New Zealand is highly topical and an issue that affects everyone.

“Few people understand our complex history with rivers. Yet rivers are central to our identity as New Zealanders, shaping our lives and providing the water that is so critical to our lives and economy.”

New Zealand’s Rivers explains how, after nearly two centuries of exploiting our rivers for personal and public gain, we have arrived at a crisis point where many of them are too polluted to swim in.

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.

Canterbury University Press Publisher Catherine Montgomery says the book will appeal to all New Zealanders, including policy-makers and politicians, scientists, iwi, recreational canoeists and anglers, and anyone with an interest in our environment and history.

“Understanding the history of our relationship with rivers is key to how we manage this precious resource in the future. This engaging and accessible book makes compelling reading not only for policy-makers but for everyone affected by their decisions.”

Catherine Knight works in environmental policy and lives on the Kapiti Coast with her family.

New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history - Canterbury University Press, November 2016. RRP $49.99. ISBN: 978-1-927145-76-0

For further information please contact:
Margaret Agnew, Senior External Relations Advisor, University of Canterbury
Phone: +64 3 369 3631 | Mobile: +64 275 030 168 | margaret.agnew@canterbury.ac.nz
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