The twenty years between 1840 and 1860 saw the growth of a permanent European presence in the Dunedin area, thanks to full-scale planned colonisation begun in 1848 by the New Zealand Company (NZC). The handful of Europeans here as whalers in 1840 grew in number to some 590 by 1850, and just under 2000 by 1860. This essay explores how the NZC settlers conceptualised and perceived the environment around Dunedin, details what Arcadia represented to them, and considers how the town’s founding fathers related the new settlement to this concept. It focuses principally on the period before the gold rush of 1861, which witnessed an enormous increase in the population of Dunedin and the Otago Province.
Arcadia, a Grecian form of Utopia, originated in the Peloponnese. It was promoted in the works of later Pastoral poets such as Theocritus (flourished third century BCE) and Virgil (70-19 BCE), who both idealised its rustic pastoral lifestyle. Arcadia’s natural abundance and the innate moderation of its people, their poetry rhapsodised, rendered all organised institutions, such as government, unnecessary. With all of their wants dispelled, Arcadians would not suffer from societal injustice, and would operate independently, as their own free agents.
Historian Miles Fairburn argues that Europeans conceptualised New Zealand as just such an Arcadia – as ‘a country of natural abundance, that … provided ample opportunities for labouring people to win an independency … a society which naturally created a high level of order, … [one in which] its simple life guaranteed middle-class people freedom from status and anxiety’.
Otago’s founders, Reverend Thomas Burns (1796?-1871) and William Cargill (1784-1860), grafted Arcadian images of Otago onto their distinctively Presbyterian aim of creating in Dunedin a better, more Godly Geneva. Geneva was associated with John Calvin’s introduction of protestant values during the sixteenth century reformation. In a similar vein to Calvin, Burns and Cargill – who both shared a mutual loathing of urbanism and industrialisation – aimed to keep Dunedin a concentrated community of family-orientated, small farming Presbyterians.
As Tom Brooking notes, their vision offered settlers ‘the means of converting wilderness into garden and of re-establishing the organic links between nature and community, and individual and community, which had been destroyed by unfettered capitalism’. At heart, it incorporated the belief that ‘Paradise might be recreated or realised on earth, thereby implying a structure for a moral world in which interactions between people and nature could be morally defined’.
That Geneva and with it the echoes of Arcadia, informed part of how European settlers read the environments of Dunedin as well as Otago Harbour. The area examined in this study stretches north from Dunedin to Waikouaiti, and south across the fertile Taieri Plain to Tapanui, and occasionally beyond this area to include land surveyed by Frederick Tuckett in the southern South Island as well as areas just beyond North Otago (Figures 1a and 1b). Within these boundaries, the settlers’ environmental views extended beyond ‘landscape perception’ to include climatic factors like temperature and wind, flora, fauna and landforms. And although many did and still do regard as pristine the environment into which the settlers came, it had in fact been shaped by centuries of occupation and resource use by Kai Tahu.
Sources and perspectives on environmental views
In detailing European environmental perception, this first section explores whether or not perceptions changed from the 1840s to 1860. Did what Europeans wanted to do to the land affect their environmental perception? To this end, it analyses four European groups: male settlers, female settlers, officials and surveyors, and missionaries, to see whether different material relations with landscape resulted in correspondingly different environmental perceptions.
Historical geographer Graeme Wynn argues that the settler need to clear the land meant that he (and it was invariably he) viewed the bush as an obstacle to earning a livelihood. For the male settler, then, utility was the primary concern. Miles Fairburn and environmental historian Neil Clayton contend that women held different environmental perceptions to men since they were not directly involved in bush clearance. Historian of science, Carolyn Merchant, goes further with her eco-feminist approach. For her, women have a special biological relationship with the land because their oppression mirrored that of the environment, so consequently they made better conservationists than men.
To attract emigrants, officials authored handbooks designed to present New Zealand in the most favourable way possible. Surveyors, regarding natural resources as commodities useful for future settlement, could be anticipated to view landscape in very utilitarian and descriptive ways. Missionaries, by contrast, might well have viewed all aspects of the environment as expressions of God’s work. This chapter explores the extent to which these hypotheses are correct. It begins by examining the intellectual influences bearing upon settlers and its impact in shaping their activities of environmental modification and perception in Otago. Next it considers the importance of land ownership in shaping settlers’ ideals as well as the pervasiveness of religious symbolism in descriptions of their new home. Finally, it examines the importance of romanticism in descriptive and artistic depictions of Otago, and ends by detailing early conservation attempts in the colony.
Making Arcadia: Civilisation, improvement and God
Accounting for such varying environmental perceptions requires situating the diarists, authors and artists in their intellectual climate. Colonists unsurprisingly sought to re-create the environments of their own country through the introduction of familiar European plants and animals, and with the establishment of farmsteads. This required them to clear the bush and to ‘improve’ the landscape for practical, aesthetic and intellectual reasons. Foremost among these was the notion of civilisation. Fenced fields, productive agriculture and orderly farmhouses gave agricultural ‘improvers’ the confidence that their activities were not only worthwhile but also foreordained. Most obviously, such activities represented the first steps taken on the path towards wealth and independence – the promise of which had brought settlers to Otago in the first place.
Much of the culture and values of Otago’s mainly Lowland migrants could be discerned from the landscape of their place of birth. By 1832, Lowlands landlords presided over open spaces ‘gracious and restful to the eye’ and admired ‘ordered fields and spaced-out farms’. Their great houses complemented this pastoral idyll, projecting ‘the civilizing ideals of the classical world’. Surrounding villages and smaller towns lay ‘placidly and usefully where the roads and the hedges that defined them met’. Despite such impressions, however, this was no age-old restful landscape. The improving ideals of the Enlightenment had only recently, abruptly and sometimes violently, intruded into the formerly insular, church-orientated Scottish village society. Scientific agriculture had arrived. And with it came improved crop species and crop rotation, tenant evictions, mass rural unemployment and a rush to the cities.
Such changes drove millions of Lowlanders to migrate to places like Dunedin, where they sought to re-create their home environment and make it provide them with a livelihood. Settlers upheld the need to hew civilisation from the wilderness, transformation essential to establishing settled agriculture and the institutions of education, law and the arts. Most importantly, settlers believed that land held in private property provided many of the material and intellectual wants of society. As labour added value to land and as land was the source of wealth as well as the foundation for law, leaving it idle was sinful, representative of a major moral failure. In concentrating on the future, settlers also looked back to the familiar and compared New Zealand with home. As William Fox (1812?-1893), politician, artist and explorer noted, the immigrant ‘will probably judge the society by what he has been accustomed to at home’.
And so it proved. The Lutheran missionary Johann Wohlers (1811-1885), based on Ruapuke Island, in the Foveaux Strait/ Te Ara a Kiwa, from 1844, compared the mountainous terrain of Rakiura/Stewart Island to the Hartz Mountains in Germany, although the latter were ‘softer … [and] not so Sublime’ as those on the island. In 1859, Alexander Begg regarded the ‘beautiful undulating country’ around Dunedin visible from the ship as ‘a gentleman’s park’. James Flint, who sailed to Dunedin in 1860, thought Otago’s coast ‘resembled some parts of Scotland greatly’. Such comparisons were both common and predictable, and had been conditioned well before the colonist arrived in New Zealand. New Zealand Company art and propaganda portrayed New Zealand just as Begg had described it, a gentleman’s park.
If one aspect of environmental perception involved the finding of familiar landforms in unfamiliar landscapes, another required looking ahead to what it resemble after decades of settlement. In Scotland, Reverend Burns wandered with a ‘prophetic eye’ over the Dunedin of the future, seeing
the noble plains of Otago some generations hence to mark the future herds and flocks that cover the upland pastures far away to the ranges of the snowy mountains whilst the lower lying valleys are waving with the yellow corn and the pursuits of rural husbandry the pretty farms, ‘the busy mile’ and the happy smiling cottages by the way side or nestling among the trees in some ‘bosky deiyle’ or sylvan dell – and all that a God fearing people – with a bold peasantry their country’s pride and an aristocracy whose highest honour it is that they are the disciples of Christ.
Burns regarded Otago as a rustic, transplanted Scotland, held tight by the moral glue of Presbyterianism. William Fox held to a similar image for New Zealand, writing three years after Burns that agricultural, pastoral and horse breeding would flourish on its ‘vast plains and open country’. In the early 1840s, fellow explorer Edward Shortland believed New Zealand’s beautiful scenery and ‘healthful climate’ added to the country’s potential, constituting the ‘essential elements of a happy and successful colony’.
Although not all of them accepted the need to impose European order onto the New Zealand landscape, surveyors followed the early visionaries, as they attempted to put into practice their sometimes wildly romantic ideas by pegging out roads and streets through bush and across grasslands. Charles Kettle, Chief Surveyor of Otago in 1846, complained how ‘manifestly imprudent’ it was to lay straight lines ‘without regarding hill or gully’. Despite his reservations, where straight lines were possible, most colonists, like Alexander Begg, were ‘quite delighted’ with the ‘green fields’ of the Taieri Plain, laid ‘off as regularly as a chessboard’.
Into these fields sown with European seeds came other species, both deliberately and unintentionally introduced—the pathogens, stowaways and weeds described by environmental historian Alfred Crosby in Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. The introduction of European plants and animals provided one means of re-creating the familiar. Whether or not, as Crosby suggests, Europeans created ‘neo-Europes’ for nostalgia or utilitarian reasons, such introductions did demonstrate an ability to master and change nature, equating plenitude with progress – the last a widely held idea among Dunedin settlers.
Even before the arrival of settlers, the surveyor Kettle had established experimental plots of wheat and corn, sending samples back to Wellington for analysis. Most colonists, like Wohlers, welcomed the replacement of native grasses by European species. It established both economic security and the ideals of civilisation. On Ruapuke Island, Wohlers explained, ‘[t]he wild-growing’ native grasses were ‘too coarse for sheep to thrive on’ and needed to be ‘burnt away, and the soil sown with good European grasses and clover’. Thomas Burns brought to Dunedin seeds, a ‘Bull, Cow, Newfoundland’ and a cat. Catherine Fulton (1829-1919) wrote of ‘training climbers against the house’ on her and her husband’s West Taieri property, as well as making shrubbery and hedging while Jane McGlashan (1827-1894), who came with her parents to Dunedin in 1853, also described her garden. ‘We have many of the old home favourites here. Roses, Pansies, Carnations, daisies, hedges of Sweet Briar and the “bonny bonny broom” which is perfectly glowing just now.’
Improving a perceived wild, uncivilised environment, as well as providing food to eat, justified establishing a garden along with the homestead. For some, the heathen, uncivilised New Zealand landscape could only be redeemed through cultivation. For the Lutheran missionary Wohlers, work and Christianity went hand-in-hand so that ‘untamed nature [should be made] subservient to the use of men and do service to God’. His sentiment echoed philosopher, scientist and statesman Francis Bacon’s belief in man’s duty to dominate nature and, in so doing, regain dominion over the Garden of Eden.
Biblical imagery infused settler society, framing their expectations and descriptions of the Otago environment. The Otago Journal, for instance, noted of the Province that: ‘The injunction and blessing … is yet in progress of fulfilment, – “Be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it”’, while Jane Bannerman, daughter of Thomas Burns, felt that God had brought the Presbyterians ‘“into a good land”’ of plenty.
Such views did not always go unchallenged. Towards the end of his life John McLay, who arrived in Dunedin in 1849 aged nine and worked as a stockman and labourer, condemned the way in which ‘the cruel Ruthless hand of man should destroy God’s beautiful work [by bush clearance] – all for the lust of money … and for the want of … misery, sin and shame’. For McLay, nature symbolised God’s creatures.
Many colonists, however, regarded the removal of native flora as necessary and expensive hard work, however much its removal might be regretted. In 1857, McLeod Orbell’s family cleared the bush on their run near Hawksbury to build a homestead and a fifty-foot long cow shed. They then established a vegetable garden. Orbell described the ‘early years of pioneering a new block of land’ as ‘particularly exhausting’.
Societal opinion and the nature of such work excluded women from participating. As a consequence, in Jock Phillips’ opinion, the New Zealand’s bush became ‘a “man’s country”’. If the settler did not work, his family might starve. The young, well-educated Canterbury stockman Frank Mathias (1842-?), took pride in his newly developed skills, writing that ‘with all modesty, I can now do a good day[’]s work! … myself’. But, however fulfilling such hard work might be, it could also be deeply frustrating. Working on extending the area he had under cultivation on a particularly hot day, Orbell’s father suddenly ‘burst into tears, exclaiming that he was “not worth a row of pins,” and walked away’.
Clearing, building and enclosing constituted the general pattern of settlement. Ploughed land, well-established homestead and neat outbuildings, with orderly fenced paddocks, represented the fulfilment of many settlers’ dreams. While most deemed deforestation necessary, admiration existed for native species. Some were adapted for the European garden. Jane Bannerman, one of Thomas Burns’ daughters, ‘took great pride in watching the development’ of the manse through bush clearance and the cutting steps to the sea, yet she still appreciated the native flora collected by her brother Arthur for planting in their garden. Arthur would collect and then row native plants from across the Harbour for introduction into his father’s manse on the Otago Peninsula. Paradoxically, it may have been through clearance that many colonists became interested and aware of native flora. Mathias, for example, ‘worked at the bush all day and got down some rails & posts [and] found a curious plant at the bush, the seeds [of which] were in the top leaves’.
Bush clearance was but one way to improve the value of the land. Draining, canal and road building also achieved the same ends, as did development of natural resources. Charles Kettle believed the ‘rather swampy’ Taieri River and its tributaries could be ‘easily drained’ to facilitate navigation. Widening and embanking Silver Stream, which flowed into the North Taieri Plain, he held, would also prevent flooding and increase the flow of water to power machinery.
Good communication, argued the surveyor John Turnbull Thomson, would not only develop markets and education but also guaranteed those ‘noblest of privileges – civil and religious liberty’. To this end, Jane McGlashan recommended the cutting of a canal across St Kilda to connect Otago Harbour with the Pacific Ocean and save vessels the long round trip. Charles Kettle also looked to improving water communication, believing it would ‘soon repay the future settlers’ to make the Molyneux (Clutha) River navigable, and thereby supply Wellington with cheap Otago coal. And The Otago Journal optimistically reported that in addition to timber, flax, fishing and wool, other valuable resources, such as iron and lead, could be found in the Otago region.
In assessing the natural resources of the land, surveyors and settlers alike quickly appreciated the utility of timber. The remnant bush – much of which had elsewhere been removed in Otago by Maori – provided raw materials for building and fencing and a livelihood for its suppliers, rather than just offering an impediment to pastoralism or agriculture. As Orbell observed, ‘Hawksbury Bush contained useful timber, either for sawing, fencing or shingles’. He and his brother received a contract from the whaler-turned-agriculturist, Johnny Jones (1808/1809?–1869), for some 200,000 shingles. Settlers were aware of the scarcity of forested land when selecting land. For example, in 1848, an anonymous landowner near Saddle Hill, recognising the value of timber for fencing and building, made sure his property bounded a good area of forest. Indeed, in Dunedin, the Otago Provincial Council protected timber on the Taieri and the Tokomairiro forest to prevent its exhaustion (see later).
Material achievements: ‘one whose capital was his labour’
As Miles Fairburn notes, settlers regarded New Zealand as a land in which prosperity could be realised by hard work. Settler Frank Mathias proudly related in 1861 how his ‘riches’ had grown ‘from nothing to 100 sheep, 1 foul [sic] and about [£] 60’. He hoped ‘that the next year by hard work, to increase that to something, that may be written with four figures.’ Mathias clearly delighted in the material achievements his labour had realised and took pride in his ability to earn a living. In common with many others, he saw himself as a self-made man rising from a modest background to a state of prosperity, an image very common in emigrant handbooks and diaries.
Cultivation provided the most potent image of the fruits of labour. A description from a journal kept of the voyage of the survey ship Acheron, charting New Zealand’s coastline between 1848 and 1851, illustrates this ideal. The journal recorded a Scotsman ‘hard at work tending a garden on the hill side’ near Dunedin. He was living simply, with a barrel and wood as a table thanks to the ‘unassisted labour of his single pair of hands’. As the journal concluded, ‘emigrants to this country will always obtain the necessities of life from agriculture enough for his own limited wants … and probably in time, a surplus for the market’. The description evoked New Zealand’s European founding myth, of a land of free-holding and God-fearing yeomen. Otago was also seen as a haven from the dehumanising impact of heavy industry. Indeed, Thomas Birch, drawing deeply from the Arcadian myth, was sufficiently moved to thank Heaven that competition in the handicraft industries was ‘unknown to us in our free, unfettered, and richly endowed province of Otago’.
Buildings and gardens: ‘[C]ivilization had made some progress’
The built environment, too, indicated civilisation. The larger and more permanent the buildings, and the more controlled and tended the environment, the more civilised the scene. Orbell compared Dunedin in 1849 with that of 1859. Dunedin in 1849 consisted of ‘a few scattered and hastily erected dwellings.’ The town survey had not been completed, with a large area still ‘covered with a rank growth of grass, flax, scrub, Toi Toi, nigger heads [sic] and spear grass’, altogether an ‘embryo Town’ and not at all attractive. A decade later:
civilization had made some progress [in Dunedin]. I say some progress, because it is difficult to define where it begins or ends. At any rate Dunedin was growing and clearances made, where before bush, scrub, and nigger-heads existed. The Northern route over Flag Staff Hill had been improved by the erection of stone cairns, also over Swampy Hill, and a horse track partially indicated by the traffic, people were no longer afraid to travel that country alone.
‘[T]he beautiful situation of Dunedin and with the clean neat appearance of the Weatherboard houses looking out spick and span from picturesque spots in the surrounding bush’ also impressed James McKerrow (1834-1919), assistant surveyor to Kettle.
Contrasts of ‘before and after’ were common tropes in the description of Dunedin, as they were with other colonial towns. Australian-born Rachel Reynolds described the main road to Anderson’s Bay in the 1850s as ‘a swamp, full of tussock’. Princes Street had a ‘very rickety wooden bridge’, while on Bell Hill she described ‘some weak-looking wooden buildings … there before any or much improvement took place’. Since then, however, ‘pretty-coloured houses, nice trees, flowers, and gardens have created a magical change in the place’. European plants and well-tended gardens served to redeem and civilise Dunedin in Reynolds’ eyes.
Two lithographs from 1848 and 1859 by Charles Kettle confirm Orbell’s contrast and served as propaganda in the promotion of Dunedin. The depiction of Dunedin in 1848 (figure 2) contains permanent-looking dwellings in neatly cleared, fenced fields. In the mid-picture in some versions of the lithograph (but not shown in the one reproduced), two cows stand in a field, a figure approaching them. Figure 2 also suggest progress through the depiction of tree-stumps in the foreground and bush retreating up the hill on the left-hand side of the picture. The bush is there in sufficient quantity to provide timber but is not menacing, implying that not much further clearance is required for new migrants setting up home in Dunedin. Sailing ships on Otago harbour imply regular access to the outside world and a well-established market. Eleven years later the change is striking (Figure 3). There are more houses of a permanent-looking nature. Roofs are tiled rather than thatched. The number of masts visible behind the quay shows the manifold increase in shipping the town had enjoyed since its establishment. The message and contrast is clear: Prosperity has accompanied the hard work of the first settlers.
Other colonists echoed many of Kettle’s themes as they wrote approvingly of cultivated land eating into the bushline. John Cargill, for whose 1860 emigrant guide Kettle produced his images, noted that as one approached Dunedin from Port Chalmers, ‘the hand of man is seen more and more [and is] … exhibited by the greater extent of cleared land, and of more commodious and comfortable dwellings’. Even as early as 1846, Jane McGlashan was struck with the ‘pretty appearance’ of the ‘Gardens and green slopes’ of Dunedin’s houses. At Johnny Jones’ whaling station and early European settlement at Waikouaiti, north of Dunedin, Edward Shortland found among the rough and ready, heavy-drinking whalers a shining example of the kind of man the colony required, and in his garden, a symbol of sober industriousness. While his companions had squandered their money on alcohol, Stephen Smith, reported Shortland, ‘had a garden of two or three acres, entirely fenced.’ Furthermore, ‘[h]is cottage and dairy were pictures of neatness, and … his wife, a native of Taranaki … not less so’.
Gardening could also mark refined and civilised behaviour, representing as it did the ‘progress of European civilisation into the wilds’ and making ‘the wilderness look like Home’. Reynolds’ mother’s ‘wonderful faculty for gardening came … to the rescue, [by] transforming the bush’. Her ‘genius’ for gardening, related Reynolds of her mother, came from the fact that ‘she was a really well-educated Englishwoman [who] … could hold her own in most branches’. Although the physical labour of clearing the bush to make a garden fell to men, women figured prominently in tending the garden. Mrs J.C. Stevenson noted how women ‘took great pride in their flower gardens’.
But did women view the environment differently, as some have suggested? Certainly, women’s lives were more likely to be orientated around the home, as Phillips conjectures. In general, the evidence used in this article suggests that women bought into the model of improvement accepted by most other settlers, although they were not as physically involved as men in clearing the bush. For women, then, the garden offered the most potent image of the fecundity of the New Zealand environment and of their ability to change the Otago landscape.
Assessing Arcadia: Productivity and climate
Like Arcadia, Otago’s soil, flora, fauna and climate were supposedly bountiful and fecund, its climate reputedly health-giving. Children born here reportedly lived longer and had a more rugged constitution. Those emigrating likewise tended to live longer and suffer less from disease. The image of the garden tended represented both the bountifulness of Arcadian Otago and the need for hard work – important in a Presbyterian colony – to constantly improve and tend that bounty.
If the garden symbolised the civilising of Otago’s Arcadian environment, God’s Word justified its cultivation. European colonists organised and identified nature through the textual images of the biblical or physical re-creations of the actual garden. This and the symbol of the island, argues Richard Grove, offered colonists ‘the possibility of redemption’, and of them creating a realm in which Paradise might be recreated or realised on earth. Within the garden ‘interactions between people and nature could be morally defined and circumscribed’.
Biblical images of Otago as a Garden of Eden or Paradise were commonplace. Jane Bannerman, using imagery from Deuteronomy, regarded Otago as both Paradise and Canaan, the Promised Land. The Waikouaiti Wesleyan missionary, James Watkin (1805-1886), saw in the ‘views of Mountain and sea scenery’ evidence of the Great Architect who had ‘weighed the mountains in scales, the hills in a balance, and who “meted out the waters with the hollow of his hand.”’ Like John McLay, Watkin tapped into an allegorical tradition over two millennia old, reinforcing historical geographer Paul Shepard’s opinion that natural symbolism still remained strong in nineteenth-century European depictions of New Zealand landscape, albeit in a more descriptive and naturalistic manner than before.
Descriptions of flourishing gardens and introduced plants, along with lively birdlife and naturally high soil productivity testified to the ability of settlers to tend the considerable natural bounty of the land. Jane McGlashan described a ‘pretty Nursery Garden’ in North East Valley, Dunedin, ‘its young fruit trees covered with blossom, its bushes weighing to the ground, and its home curiosities which the owner points out with pride, telling you … that there is not another specimen in the Colony’. The garden of Thomas Burns ‘grew in beauty … [was] well stocked with abundance, far more than we could use [and] … [t]he small fruit became plentiful’, all of which ‘might be expected in fertile soil such as this good land possesses’.
According to several of the early settlers, this fertile soil and ‘the regular and abundant supply of moisture’ contributed to ‘the luxuriance of vegetation everywhere’, a confidence they continued to express well after their arrival. McGlashlan found that in New Zealand, ‘[t]he Fuchsia … grows to a Tree’, Shortland, that the hills around Moeraki ‘are rich in wood and soil, and produce abundant and excellent crops of potatoes’, and Cargill that ‘the great abundance and goodness of the pasturage’ provided ‘a considerable part of the prosperity and domestic comfort’ of the early colonists. Lest the image of Arcadia undermine the work ethic so central to the Otago Colony’s godly enterprise, the gardener and nurseryman William Martin (1823-1905) wrote to dispel the notion that, such was Otago’s bounty, colonists ‘will have nothing to do but to lie and bask themselves in the sun all day and pu’ the berries when hungry.’ Instead, he wrote, settlers must ‘earn their bread by the sweat of their brow, for some years at least’, although, in time, Otago’s productive environment would make life easier than in Scotland.
If soils and vegetation indicated fecundity, so too did a wide and varied bird life. McGlashan found the bush ‘enlivened by the clear notes of a beautiful yellow bird, and by those of the tui or parson bird – a pretty creature, clothed in a suit of glossy green and black, with the singular tuft of white feather beneath’ its chin. Parakeets, fluttering ‘about in the sunshine’, and robins, ‘in their sober suits of black and brown’, would ‘stop within a few yards of you and even perch upon your shoulder’. The tameness of the birds also struck Sarah Low in 1849.
Some explorers and surveyors, including the nurseryman William Martin who had taken papers in surveying, were better trained in assessing resources than most settlers, and expressed doubts about the fecundity of the land. These included the surveyors Frederick Tuckett and Charles Kettle. Kettle found some parts of the Taieri Plain partially or completely swampy. Although it might be drained, ‘the thickness of the vegetation … obstructs the passage of the water coming from the hills’. Tuckett’s trained eye assessed the quality of land better than Kettle’s, however. Tuckett had learnt – possibly from Maori? – that certain vegetation indicated the quality of the land beneath it. ‘[P]rovided there is sufficient fall and that the earth will nearly sustain a man’s weight in walking without his sinking’, he wrote, ‘… the land in New Zealand can hardly be too wet in its natural state’. ‘Whenever I observed the Tea-Tree [sic] frequent although small and stunted, the land appeared superior; its growth a mix of Phormium tenax, fern, Toi-Toi, and a coarse sedge-grass’. By contrast, flax, without ‘ainiseed [sic], perennial groundel [sic], or milk grass’, indicated the need to apply manure to successfully till the land, while rimu, totara, tall manuka and white birch signified a poor quality soil. Tuckett considered that experience and the use of correct techniques could make it fruitful.
Most settlers, by contrast, continued to equate forestland with a rich soil, an erroneous notion because soil quality diminished rapidly on bare land without leaf litter to enrich it. Burns, for instance, still maintained that potatoes grew best on former bush land rather than fern, a misguided notion as it turned out, but at least he also advised colonists to seek advice from Maori ‘for they are by no means incompetent judges.’
James Watkin’s melancholic assessment of New Zealand’s agricultural contrasted vividly with Burns’ optimism and far exceeded even Tuckett’s caution. To Watkin, New Zealand consisted solely of ‘hill and mountain, [had] few plains and those very swampy … [were] flats rather than plains.’ The rivers, moreover, were ‘insignificant or inaccessible on account of bar mouths’, although ‘[t]he hills might be cultivated to the very summits’.
For all that, the surveyors held that Otago could be successfully colonised. For John Turnbull Thomson (1821-1884), pasture and agriculture were keystones for securing the future wealth of the colony while the value of forests would become apparent ‘in future times’. In 1858, he thought more than eighty per cent of Otago ideally suited for pasture. Waste (barren or lake) areas constituted only some ten per cent of surveyed land, although he estimated four times as much remained un-surveyed. If the 144 square miles of swamp could be drained, Thomson estimated over ninety per cent of Otago’s land could be brought into production for either agriculture or pasture.
A fecund land of beauty: ‘all sorts of European plants flourish’
Despite his wife’s poor physical condition, Watkin did believe that New Zealand’s climate had ‘healthful’ qualities. Assessments like these formed as central a role in environmental perception as those about its other resources, particularly given that many migrants left their homeland because of health concerns. In 1849, Jane Bannerman found ‘something gladsome in the climate’, while propagandist William Fox believed that: ‘The climate of New Zealand is, for the purposes of health and production, probably about the finest in the world’. Thus ‘any one who rejoices in sunshine – who likes a clear elastic air in which blue devils cannot exist – or who wishes for a climate in which all sorts of European plants flourish, and all sorts of live stock thrive to an amazing degree – will certainly be satisfied with it.’
Writers of the Scheme of the Colony of the Free Church at Otago, New Zealand expounded on the importance of a healthy moral climate. At the root of good ‘moral and religious instruction’ and ‘sound mental culture,’ they wrote, ‘comes health of body, the first of earthly blessings’. Appealing again to thrifty Presbyterian values and the developing myth of New Zealand as a labourer’s paradise, the handbook argued that instead of a life ‘of severe toil’, work in New Zealand could be enjoyed because of its ‘delightful climate’. Its bounty would thus render the sickly healthy, the healthy robust and the robust fat.
Although The Otago Journal, with an eye on the theories of the geography and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) on environmental determinism, cautioned against ideas of Dunedin constituting a tropical paradise, the editor considered Otago’s climate ‘fine’. It enjoyed ‘equitable’ year-round mildness, ‘refreshing dews and rains, and … temperate heat, [which] fill the months with a living verdure.’ Indeed, the goodness of a climate could be judged by the number of species it supported, as witnessed by the 140 types of fern found in Otago as well as its beneficial health and moral properties, with neither local nor epidemic diseases. Young and old alike thrived, enjoying unprecedented and uninterrupted ‘good health’.
The Journal’s reference to von Humboldt reflected a growing use of scientific opinion and data to support such assertions. For example, in the 1840s Edward Shortland used the climatic data he had gathered to make a case for colonisation of the Foveaux Strait area. Weather conditions, too, could affect environmental perceptions. Jane Reynolds and her family ‘were not so much enamoured of the dark look of’ Otago Harbour’s hills and the ‘cold, grey skies’ made them want to remain aboard ship. Such was their poor impression of Dunedin, the family persuaded their father to instead settle in Lyttelton, Canterbury. James Watkin suffered from the other extreme. Would ‘it not have been so hot’ the baptism he attended at Purakanui, just north of Dunedin, complained Watkin in 1843, ‘would have been … of great enjoyment’. Two days later Watkin headed back ‘under an almost torrid sun’.
So for some, at least at first, Otago seemed to offer all that their visions of Arcadia had promised, from its flora and fauna to the very climate upon which they depended for survival. For others, it appeared very much a qualified Arcadia, somewhat less than the overemphasised delights of the emigrant handbooks and the politicians with their rosy descriptions of Otago as a fecund land of beauty, moral and physical health.
Romanticising Arcadia: The Sublime, the Picturesque, peace, beauty and preservation.
Throughout Otago’s early colonisation, settlers conceived of, and expressed, beauty in the natural environment in a variety of ways. Indeed, for the better educated among them, aesthetic appreciation had its own codes and modes of expression. Otago’s scenery elicited romantically-coded responses, most commonly those of the Sublime and of the Picturesque. Eliciting sheer terror, the Sublime stressed the inconsequence of individuals in the vast spaces of God’s creations. According to the Sublime version of nature, mountains brought one closer to God, in the same way that wild nature and virgin forests did as God’s natural cathedrals. The Picturesque view encapsulated a more watered down wilderness, a tamer, gentler sublime. Originally meaning ‘like a picture’, writers generally contrasted the rugged and negligent, dark and gloomy Sublime with the rough and irregular, animated and variable Picturesque. Other less emotionally coded responses evoked expressions of loneliness, peace and tranquillity – as well as fear – while appeals to beauty and utilitarian motives underlay calls for preservation of forested areas and fisheries. Once again, too, we find God’s presence in the landscape, but this time as a justification for preservation.
Otago’s settlement coincided with the height of romanticism in Europe. Romantics combined ‘cool intelligence and warm, troubled emotion’, valued feeling, reason, and the subconscious, as well as expressing a love of the mysterious, ‘the unknown, [and] the half-seen figures on the far horizon’. Rather than the literary romanticism of, say, Wordsworth or Coleridge, settlers painted ‘a picture with words’, their views in effect conditioned by landscape convention, although some described pleasure in bird song, and other essentially non-utilitarian responses. Given the congruence between art and literature, it is possible to apply such conventions as ‘Picturesque’ and ‘Sublime’, used in artistic forms, to colonists’ written descriptions.
The surveyor James McKerrow certainly appreciated the Sublime. In 1861, he and his assistant, sheltering from a storm on the West Coast, decided to get their bearings. Climbing to a mountain peak, all they ‘could see was a most dismal’ range ‘of snowy mountains that chilled and appalled the senses by their sterile magnificence, but no Caswell Sound’.
The Southern Alps and Lakes Manapouri and Te Anau – visited on the same journey – impressed McKerrow so much that he urged his fellow countrymen not to ‘rest content’ until they had experienced at first hand
the magnificence and grandeur of their native country. Manapouri with its wooded inlets and peninsulas and fantastic Bays and Coves, and its girdle of high mountains and water falls is a beauty, an inspiration a joy to every beholder. Its greater sister [Lake] Te Anau calls forth the homage of reverence and awe as the ramifications of its fords [sic] among precipitous mountains are opened out … no brush can ever hope to paint the ever changing and infinite varieties of colouring with which the setting sun gilds peak and snow field and glacier, that he seems loath to leave, as he sinks to the west.
McKerrow, ignoring centuries of Maori occupation, believed that Otago’s empty, grand and unique landscapes fostered a sense of belonging among Europeans.
Another colonist, an anonymous letter-writer to John Cargill’s handbook, disparagingly described Otago’s bush. Unless the emigrant liked the ‘Sublime and beautiful’, he scoffed, the colonist would be faced with only small areas of cleared forest, with temporary huts set ‘amid the apparently interminable forests’. Clearly, not all handbook material presented New Zealand in favourable terms.
Indeed, one writer
could not endure a country where no noble or extended view can be obtained of the fair face of nature, in hills, and rivers, woods and plains. Here in Otago there are scenes of natural beauty that realize the conceptions of a [Claude] Lorraine [sic], and of which without the hand of the artist I could convey to you but little idea. Indeed I feel assured that a good artist transmitting views of the country, might do more in conveying a knowledge of it to the people at home.
Some responses confused these codes. Rhoda Coote described as Picturesque the ‘very rugged and savage’ appearance of Snares Rock, lying ‘some sixty miles south of Stewart Island’ whereas Edmund Burke (1729-1797), author of a definitive guide to the Sublime, Philosophical Enquiry into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful, held that rugged scenery elicited terror and the Sublime. According to such criteria, the German missionary Johann Wohlers correctly identified Stewart Island as Sublime.
In contrast to the Sublime, authors associated textures of roughness and variation, asymmetry and contrasts of light and dark with the Picturesque. In 1858, Reverend William Johnstone regarded Otago Harbour’s scenery as ‘most grand and picturesque’, especially the trees which grew ‘up to the very tops of the hills’. Two years later James Flint described Otago Harbour as ‘a picturesque looking place’ its wooded hills right to the water’s edge.
The surveyor Thomson found the Mackenzie Country of inland Otago ‘magnificently picturesque, yet possessing so much of dreariness, wildness, and sterility as to be forbidding, and to the solitary traveller, appalling’. Thomson’s image contrasted with Edward Shortland’s 1844 description of a beach just south of Moeraki, as ‘[o]ne of those still quiet mornings, so peculiarly the charm of New Zealand; the long lazy wave just plashing against the beach, and then receding over the sand with a slight rustling noise’. And, for Wohlers, the ‘soft, wooded hills’ of Otago Harbour contrasted with the ‘cold steep hills and narrow valleys’ and the ‘stark, upright, nearly naked’ hills around Nelson, which looked ‘as if they had only just come up out of the sea and had not yet learned good manners’.
These views represent by no means the full extent of romantic responses to the New Zealand environment. In 1848, Thomas Burns thought Otago Harbour presented an ‘uninterrupted scene of romantic beauty’ thanks to ‘steep and bold headlands, and peninsulas … all … densely clothed from the water up to their very summit with evergreen woods, [thus] presenting an unrivalled sense of the richest sylvan green and alpine beauty’. The next year Stokes described how ‘a warm and unclouded sun … gilds with his rays, every tint from palest to deepest green, within the vast ampitheatre [sic] of wood by which this harbour is encircled.’ For Jane McGlashan, too, Otago Harbour suggested ‘peace and beauty’. Painting a pastoral image in words of Dunedin, she presented it as an idyllic pre-industrial town. The mill, ‘situated in a pretty wooded glen’ had ‘a “bonny burn” prattling merrily’ beside it.
For others, stronger emotions were elicited by their environmental experiences, ranging from nostalgia, to loneliness and fear. McKerrow, passing Maori mud and clay dwellings, felt that ‘many happy memories’ clung ‘to these old whares’. Fellow surveyor, John Turnbull Thomson believed the mighty and slow process of geological formation meant the age of New Zealand ‘cannot be measured by hundreds of years, but by hundreds of thousands’, a history exemplifying ‘the care and beneficence of Nature’s God’. Thomson here alluded to the great scientific and religious controversy of the era. Natural historians had discovered rocks that indicated the earth was significantly older than the Bible indicated. In contrast to Thomson, Johann Wohlers initially found the country lonely and unchristian. Germans, he wrote, could ‘hardly imagine the loneliness of a New Zealand landscape … [In Germany] one is accustomed to see … the hand of man everywhere. Towers and hams, waggon roads and footpaths; and where there are no people, there are still animals, tame or wild’.
New settlers, wrote McLeod Orbell, found themselves ‘confronted with the wildness of the country, without a friend’. For Burns, New Zealand had ‘no roads, no cultivated land, – nothing but woods and wilds’. Wohlers, lost for a time with the Wesleyan missionary Charles Creed on Banks Peninsula, described the ‘horrible sensation to be [lost] in a solitary mountain, without habitation’.
Fear of rivers constituted a more direct and threatening hazard than loneliness. Sarah Low found the one saving grace of their homestead was that it was not next to a river, ‘for people are constantly being drowned … four since our arrival’. Orbell and his brother narrowly escaped drowning in Waikouaiti River, while Johnstone, attempting to cross the Waitaki River, remembered his fiancée and thought it better to ‘retrace my steps!’ Indeed, to McLay the ‘Molyneux River is the King of rivers in Otago for destruction … the death bed of many a poor man.’ Watkin was not so much concerned with rivers as the sea. Otago Harbour, he quivered, ‘is a fearful place to go into or come out of’, while he prophesised his end there, too: ‘How awful is death, sudden death especially, death in the boiling surf!’
Drawing Arcadia: Artistic environmental portrayal
Almost all settlers described New Zealand using romantically-coded language. This section considers how artistic traditions influenced pictorial representations of Otago and how notions of civilisation and progress and fecundity shaped settlers’ images of their new land. The congruence between literary and artistic notions of beauty, as well as that of other intellectual ideas, such as progress, also suggests the connection between art and writing needs to be explored in greater detail than is done in this present study.
With some forty per cent of immigrants estimated to be partially or completely illiterate, images constituted an important source of information for them, and an ‘enticement, even for the literate’. Indeed, Otago settlers sometimes noted how much better paintings – rather than words – could represent scenery. In this period, art was mainly the preserve of the educated classes. So, like the written word, only the views of visually literate immigrants are available. But unlike the written word, images could be interpreted by all sighted colonists.
Although topographical artists could not take as many artistic liberties with subject matter as could followers of the Ideal, who might rearrange light and even scenery to meet conventional artistic formulas, topographical artists still used artistic licence. This means that such images cannot be considered as literal renditions of nature. Instead, it is important to recognise the frames artists used to capture scenery. These were many and varied. For instances, artists could seek ‘in nature a simplified version of the Claudian Ideal’ by framing rocks or trees, painting ‘overlapping planes parallel to the picture planes’ or offering views from a high vantage point.
Given these conventions, how, then, can paintings be interpreted? Gordon Brown and Hamish Keith note that after the 1860s, artists in New Zealand became captive to European landscape conventions. Many authors, too, agree that art represented a colonial act of appropriation and control, a means of domesticating the exotic and rendering the unfamiliar, familiar.
European artists interacted with the Otago environment through their use of landscape frames or their choice of subject matter. For instance, they could depict native species and the extent of native bush, or indicate the spread of civilisation through renditions of the built environment and cultivated land. In such depictions, the Picturesque strongly influenced many artists’ works.
The Picturesque and the Ideal influenced Edward Immyns Abbot’s rendition of Dunedin (Figure 4). Representing the archetypal Otago immigrant, Abbot depicted a well-dressed family standing in a clearing at the start of the Otago Peninsula. The family admire the city’s progress, and gaze upon a neat and well-ordered landscape. Tree stumps indicate the hand of humanity and the coming of civilisation. The bush, appearing as it would in a gentleman’s park, is benign, familiar and aesthetically pleasing to European sensibilities. Not a breath of wind stirs the chimney smoke, which hangs lazily in the air. Two sailing vessels, one at port and the other about to dock, appear to float more on a mirror than on water.
Gentle industry breaks this scene of tranquillity. The ships entering port, the ploughed fields, and the smoke rising from the houses suggest industry, activity, prosperity – the development of a pre-industrial, village-based civilisation of the like imagined by Cargill and Burns. Fine colonial buildings suggest a civilised environment and the benefits of hard work, without any taint of industrialised, factory-based industry. Taken together, then, Abbot’s image conveyed an essentially ‘modest and … lower- to-middle-class utopia’. Such a depiction is understandable, because, like Kettle’s, Abbot’s was created for propaganda purposes and consequently played up the attractiveness of Dunedin.
The work of another surveyor, John Turnbull Thomson (Figure 5), painting around the same time as Abbott, tended to flatten out Dunedin’s hilly topography and downplay the extent of remaining bush. Even when land became cultivated, tree stumps left from clearance made the land seem far rougher than any artist portrayed. In one of Thomson’s paintings, figures set off to one side allow the observer’s eye to take in a straight road joining fore- with middle-ground as it travels along the flat expanse of South Dunedin. Thomson’s landscape is dissected by straight lines, whether by the road on the flats or along the fence lines on the hills. In doing this, Thomson emphasised the development of civilisation in Dunedin.
Even though Thomson presented native plants as controlled and domesticated frames, he at least included reasonably accurate portrayals of them. The work of French artist, Louis Le Breton, in his 1840 watercolour of Port Dunedin, presents perhaps the most unrealistic portrayal of New Zealand’s flora. His colours, too, appear drab in contrast to the way later settlers described the vibrant green of the bush. Le Breton’s representation is hazy and indistinct. Hills on either side of Otago Harbour fade away into the background. More jagged than those presented by the British artists, the pyramidal peaks point up to the sky rather than sloping away gently as Thomson’s – do possibly reflecting the fact that Le Breton’s images were not intended to attract migrants. Unlike Thomson’s vivid colours, Le Breton’s land and mountain are limned in a dull sandy or light brown. Even the sky is a light grey. Le Breton spent only four days in Otago. Given the brevity of his visit and that fact that he most likely would have had to rely on memory to finish the painting, it is unsurprising that the finished product resembled more a European landscape than a New Zealand one.
The artwork of one of the Valpy sisters, who came to Dunedin in 1849 with their family, represented the transformation of the New Zealand bush, in this case the development of her family’s farms at Caversham, Dunedin (Figure 6). (The painting’s attribution is uncertain, as is its date [either 1849 or 1857]. The artist is either Catherine Henrietta Elliot Valpy [later, Catherine Fulton] or Ellen Penelope Valpy [1835-1911].) The original colour version depicts dark, rich ploughed fields set against a deep green bush, which Valpy gives a greater presence than the other artists discussed, by depicting it from relatively close-up. Most other artists of the time portrayed the bush either in the distance (Thomson), as appearing only at the side of the work (Kettle), as controlled, English parkland (Abbot) or Europeanised flora (Le Breton).
The development of civilisation through bush clearance and the establishment of cultivated, fenced fields as well as the development of a town and other buildings are common themes in these artworks. As noted, Kettle produced his works for John Cargill’s 1860 emigrant handbook. Abbot, likewise, produced his image for propaganda purposes. This meant both sought to produce an attractive image for emigrants from Britain. On the other hand, the influence of surveying, with its imposition of lines on blank spaces, is clearly apparent in Thomson’s work in the straight road and fence lines dissecting the landscape, a feature remarked on by Geoff Park.
Altogether, it is clear that purpose affected artistic portrayal and that artistic and intellectual conventions shaped the artist in the same way they did the diarist or letter-writer. Landscape conventions proved particularly important in influencing paintings, as we have seen with reference to the foreground frame. The New Zealand environment also affected European perceptions. Yet, even for that most European of artistic conventions, the frame, most artists used New Zealand plants, while the basic structures, textures and colours of the land and water also influenced colonial painters. As Marian Minson notes, the colonist artists gazed at the fruits of their own labour and proudly recorded ‘their own progress in taming the wilderness as they cleared bush for farming’.
Conservation: ‘how fast this wilderness is being reclaimed’
Tensions could emerge between sentiment, experience, and environmental change. However much they framed the New Zealand environment within romantic terms or admired its perceived ‘unaltered state’, settlers still changed the landscape. Over time, as resources became more scarce some official support for forest and whale conservation gained ground, along with even the suggestion of preserving unique geological features. Later in life, able to look back and reflect on changes, many more settlers regretted the destruction of timber and the loss of birdlife.
John McLay, late in life, thundered of the shame that ‘the cruel Ruthless hand of man should destroy God’s beautiful work – all for the lust of money that sends so many to destruction – and for the want of … misery[,] sin and shame’. Others described the rapidity of change. Walking deep into dense-growing bush of North East Valley, near Dunedin, in the 1850s, Alexander Begg found the experience lonely and noted how ‘[t]he sound of the axe in the distance’ told of ‘how fast this wildness is being reclaimed’.
Conservationist sentiment was commoner among officials than settlers, tasked as the former were to plan for the Colony’s future. In 1847 and 1848, for instance, Charles Kettle and Colonel William Wakefield sought ways to regulate tree-felling and to prevent European builders removing timber from NZC land set aside as a Maori reserve. An 1854 amendment to the Land Regulations of Otago attempted to regulate the amount of bush land granted to settlers, reserving the right to veto land applications ‘if it shall appear … that the sale of such land would be injurious to the public interests’. Such a measure reflected the relative paucity of forests around Otago. Indeed, in 1849, Sarah Low had already noted how the first settlers ‘naturally place[d] themselves for the sake of the timber’, an important resource for settlers as we saw earlier.
Other concerns extended beyond deforestation. In the early 1840s, Shortland believed that ‘unless some law be enacted to protect and encourage [whales to breed] … they will speedily be extirpated, or driven to other regions’. He advocated a closed-season for part of the year and the prohibition of foreign fishing vessels in New Zealand’s waters. Later in life, Anne Black Fraser regretted her own and her fellow colonists’ liking for bird meat. ‘What a pity it was to destroy those beautiful birds, which are now so scarce’. Thomson believed some conservation could co-exist with development. In 1858, Thomson urged the use of coal, lignite and gold, advocated tree felling and the development of pasture land, but also pushed for the preservation of a unique geological feature: Moeraki boulders, ‘though of no utilitarian interest’, he observed, must be protected because of their rarity.
Indeed, deep tensions underlay much European perception and use of the natural resources of Otago. Pastoralism and progress were widely accepted, but so too were romantic conventions of beauty. Perhaps romantic notions strained the notion of progress, as people began to see tensions between the material reality and the destruction of what they regarded as beautiful, sowing the seeds of later environmentalism.
Conclusion: Farmhouses, fences and cultivated land
Otago’s colonists expressed many different environmental views. The desire to reproduce a familiar European landscape manifested itself in the introduction of plants and animals from the ‘home’ country, and especially from Lowlands Scotland, the home of many of Dunedin’s early settlers. Civilisation and progress were represented physically by cultivated land, farmsteads, civic buildings and gardens. To most, God sanctioned their colonising and civilising ventures. This, of course, required the creation of a productive New Zealand environment. Although with some notable exceptions, most believed New Zealand to be just such an Arcadia of untapped potential, but one requiring hard work and discipline consonant with Otago’s Presbyterian founding ideals. Its balmy climate and fecund rains infused settlers with good health, causing Otago’s soil and vegetation to be so bountiful. According to this vision, Otago only awaited ‘civilised’ humans to till the soil and put the land to good use.
Tilling the soil and putting the land to good use, of course, entailed labour. Labour constituted an important determinant in colonisation and environmental perception, for had Otago been a true Arcadia its inhabitants would not have been required to work, a situation antithetical to both the Victorian-era Protestant work ethic and axiom of progress. Still, the need to work the soil, and in the process alter ecologies, did not stop Europeans from finding much of beauty in the Otago environment. Europeans used romantically-coded expressions of beauty, referring to precipitous and spectacular scenery as Sublime, and gentler landscapes as Picturesque. Peace, loneliness and even boredom represented less specifically-coded romantic conventions. Genuine terror, however, underlay fear of water crossings and did not find expression in romantically-coded language.
A handful of officials and explorers recognised the need to conserve resources, whether to save Dunedin’s dwindling forest cover or to arrest the declining whale population. Only much later in the nineteenth century did some settlers regret the destruction of forest and bird life that had occurred by then, in the process highlighting the tension between the material reality of progress and the destruction of what they valued.
The conservationist sentiment of some officials indicates that slight differences in European environmental perception existed among the different groups identified. Given their role, surveyors and officials unsurprisingly quantified and described Otago’s environment rather more than other colonists. That Tuckett believed Otago’s soil to be less productive than the likes of his fellow surveyors Kettle and Thomson illustrates, firstly, that he had learnt from experience to accurately assess the land’s productivity. Secondly, such differences in environmental perception caution against the assumption that perceptions are identical within the same profession or group.
Women, though associated more with gardening, adopted notions of civilisation, progress and romantically-coded reactions just as much as did their male counterparts. Indeed, images of farm houses bounded by fences, with owners proudly surveying the development of cultivated land and the diminishing bush, represent most cogently the themes of civilisation and progress held among almost all of settler society.
This work originated in 1999, as an Honours Dissertation supervised by Professor Tom Brooking. I would like to thank Tom for his guidance, and the various editors who have subsequently worked on this manuscript, including Tom, Neil Clayton and Paul Star. In addition, I would like to acknowledge the help and support of many archives and archivists: notably Tania Connolly, then Otago Settlers’ Museum, Bill Sykes of the Dunedin City Council Archives, the late David Macdonald, and the staff of the Hocken Library. I also thank Jill Haley, Toitu Otago Settlers Museum, for quickly providing a copy of images. The author would like to note that the views and interpretations in this article reflect those of the time I wrote it, not those of now. For funding for images, he would like to acknowledge the Faculty of Arts and Social Science, University of Waikato.
Peter Entwisle, Behold the Moon: The European Occupation of the Dunedin District, 1770-1848, Port Daniel Press, Dunedin, 1998, pp 79-106. There were 307 males and 283 females in Dunedin in 1850. The Otago Journal VIII, (March 1850), p 111.
On which, see Erik Olssen, A History of Otago, John McIndoe, Dunedin, 1984, pp 50-70.
Evan Eisenberg, The Ecology of Eden, Picador, New York, 1998, pp 165, 169. Miles Fairburn, The Ideal Society and its Enemies: The Foundation of Modern New Zealand Society 1850-1900, Auckland University Press, 1989, p 26.
Fairburn, The Ideal Society and its Enemies, pp 29-41.
Tom Brooking, And Captain of Their Souls: An Interpretative Essay on the Life and Times of Captain William Cargill, Otago Heritage Books, Dunedin, 1984).
Tom Brooking, ‘The great escape: Wakefield and the Scottish settlement of Otago’, in Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the Colonial Dream: A Reconsideration, Friends of the Turnbull Library and GP Publications, Wellington, 1997, pp 127-30, 131.
Jean Delumeau, History of Paradise: The Garden of Eden in Myth and Tradition, trans. Matthew O’Connell, Continuum, New York, 1995, p 6; Richard H. Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600-1860, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1995, p 13.
D.W. Meinig, ‘Introduction’, in The Interpretation of Ordinary Landscapes: Geographical Essays, ed. D.W. Meinig, Oxford University Press, New York, 1979, pp 1-7. For examples of landscape histories see, Simon Schama, Landscape and Memory, Harper Collins, London, 1995.
For details of southern Maori impact, see Atholl Anderson, The Welcome of Strangers: An Ethnohistory of Southern Maori A.D. 1650-1850, Otago University Press, Dunedin, 1998.
Graeme Wynn, ‘Conservation and society in late nineteenth-Century New Zealand’, New Zealand Journal of History, 11, 2 (October 1977), pp 124-36; Fairburn, The Ideal Society and its Enemies, p 58; Neil Clayton, ‘Settlers, Politicians and Scientists: Environmental Anxiety in a New Zealand Colony’, Post-graduate Diploma in Arts (History) dissertation, University of Otago, Dunedin, 1998, pp 57-79. Carolyn Merchant, Earthcare: Women and the Environment, Routledge, New York, 1995.
Sydney and Olive Checkland, Industry and Ethos: Scotland 1832-1914, Edward Arnold, London, 1984, pp 56-60; Jane Bannerman, ‘Reminiscences of her life to 1855’, typescript, J.C. Wilson family papers, MS-0536-2, Hocken Library, University of Otago.
Wynn, ‘Conservation and society in late nineteenth-century New Zealand’, pp 134-5.
John Locke cited in Henry Reynolds, The Law of the Land, 2nd ed., Penguin, Melbourne, 1992, p 25; William Fox, The Six Colonies of New Zealand, facsimile, Hocken Library, Dunedin, 1971, p 19.
James Flint, ‘Journal Kept on Board Ship “Silistria” on the outward passage to New Zealand 1860, July 25 1860-November 2 1860’, (October 24 1860), typescript, Misc-MS-0190, Hocken Library; Alexander C. Begg, ‘Diary of Voyage from Glasgow to Dunedin, 8 June 1859-8 August 1860, (25 July, 11 September 1860), Begg Family Papers, AG-497-01, Hocken Library, University of Otago; Sheila Natusch, ‘Wohlers of Ruapuke’, in The German Connection: New Zealand and German-speaking Europe in the Nineteenth Century, ed. James N. Bade, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 1993, pp 226-234. J.F.H. Wohlers, Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers: Missionary at Ruapuke, New Zealand: An Autobiography, trans. John Houghton, Otago Daily Times and Witness Newspapers, Dunedin, 1895, pp 65, 80.
Reverend Thomas Burns to Captain William Cargill, Portobello, 6 February 1847, MS-0076, Hocken Library, University of Otago; Ged Martin, ‘Wakefield’s past and futures’, in Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the Colonial Dream, p 20. Vernon W. Wybrow, ‘Edward Shortland: First anthropologist of the Maori’, in When the Waves Rolled In Upon Us: Essays in Nineteenth-Century Maori History by History Honours Students University of Otago 1973-93, ed. Michael Reilly and Jane Thomson, Otago University Press, Dunedin, 1999, pp 42-53. William Fox, The Six Colonies of New Zealand, facsimile, Hocken Library, Dunedin, 1971, p, 8. Edward Shortland, The Southern Districts of New Zealand; A Journal with Passing Notes of the Customs of the Aborigines, Longman, Brown, Green, London, 1851, p 174.
Charles Kettle, Letterbook, 2/46, (7 April 1846), 23/46, (4 December 1847), MS-0083, Hocken Library, University of Otago; Geoff Park, ‘Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s dream, Thomas Shepherd’s eye and New Zealand’s spatial constitution’, in Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the Colonial Dream, pp 135-42. Park describes how the geometric pattern was superimposed onto New Zealand’s lowland plains in just the way Kettle described, oblivious to the natural features of the land. Alexander C. Begg, ‘Diary of Voyage from Glasgow to Dunedin, (20 December 1859).
Alfred Crosby, Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900, Cambridge University Press, New York, 1994, p 227; L.E. Lochhead, ‘Preserving the Brownie’s Portion: A History of Voluntary Native Conservation in New Zealand 1888-1935’, unpublished PhD dissertation, Lincoln University, Canterbury 1994, pp 32-3.
Kettle, Letterbook, 4/46, (25 January 1847); William Fox, The Six Colonies of New Zealand, p 6; Wohlers, Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers, p 200;Thomas Burns, Diary 27 November 1847-15 April 1848,(28 January 1847), typescript, G.C. Thomson Papers, MS 440/18, Hocken Library, University of Otago; Catherine Fulton, Diary 1857-1861, (2 September 1859, 1 January 1857-18 February 1861), AG-613-01, Hocken Library, University of Otago; Jane McGlashan, Journal of Voyage “Rajah”, 14 June 1853 – 3 December 1853, (8 October 1853), typescript, MS 35, Copy 67, Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin.
Wohlers, Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers, p 139. Clive Ponting, A Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations, Penguin, New York, 1993, pp 141-53. Isaiah 51:3 in Delumeau, History of Paradise p 4; Otago Journal, V, p 66. Jane Bannerman, ‘Reminiscences of her life’, p 48.
John McLay, ‘Reminiscences of John McLay, an early settler,’ ed. Ross S. Gordon, Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin,1998, pp 2, 22.
McLeod C. Orbell, ‘Reminiscences 1849-1870’, typescript, MS 46, Copy 85, Otago Settlers Museum, pp 29, 53-58
Jock Phillips, A Man’s Country? The Image of the Pakeha Male – A History, Penguin, Auckland, 1987, pp, 4, 15; Frank Mathias, ‘Journal of Frank Mathias, 1 October 1859 – 30 September 1861’, (30 September 1861), MISC – MS 1560/1, Hocken Library, University of Otago, 126-7; Orbell, ‘Reminiscences 1849-1870’, p 34.
Jane Bannerman, ‘Reminiscences of her life’, p 45; Mathias, ‘Journal of Frank Mathias’, p 21.
Kettle to Colonel William Wakefield, Port of Edinburgh, 2/46, 7 April 1846, and Kettle to Captain Cargill, Dunedin, 20 February 1850, in Charles Kettle, Letterbook.
J.T. Thomson, Sketch of the Province of Otago: A lecture (being one of the series delivered at Dunedin, W. Lambert, Dunedin, 1858. Hocken Pamphlet, 6, 2, p 13; Kettle to Wakefield, Port of New Edinburgh 2/46, 7 April 1846, in Charles Kettle, Letterbook; 8 October 1846..
Neil Clayton, ‘Settlers, Politicians and Scientists: Environmental Anxiety in a New Zealand Colony’, pp 50-6; Orbell, ‘Reminiscences 1849-1870’ pp 27, 38. ‘Letter from a landowner’; Otago Journal, IV, (26 September 1848) p 58. See also Kettle, 7 April 1846, 2/46, in Charles Kettle, Letterbook.
Mathias, ‘Journal of Frank Mathias’, (30 September 1861), p 127.
Sheila Natusch, The Cruise of the Acheron: Her Majesty’s Steam Vessel on Survey in New Zealand Waters 1848-51, Whitcoulls, Christchurch, 1978, pp 15-20; Thomas Birch, ‘No. III: Letter from Mr Thomas Birch, late settler in Otago, to the authors of the foregoing pamphlet’, London, 11 June 1860, in John Cargill, Otago, New Zealand: Information for the Guidance of Intending Emigrants, Bell and Bradfute, Edinburgh, 1860, p 42.
Orbell, ‘Reminiscences 1849-1870’, pp 19, 64; James McKerrow, ‘Reminiscences of James McKerrow, Surveyor, copied from papers supplied to Dr. A. H. McLintock’, typescript, Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin, p 6.
Mrs W.H. Reynolds, Pioneering in Australia and New Zealand: Incidents in the Life of the late Mrs W.H. Reynolds, Dunedin, N.Z. as Recounted by Herself, reprinted from the Otago Daily Times, Otago Daily Times, Dunedin, 1929, p 12.
High quality copies are found at: Charles Henry Kettle, ‘Dunedin in 1848’, A. Banks and Son , Edinburgh, tinted lithograph, 81 x 176 mm, Au K43 94/16, Neg: 1837/13A, and Kettle, ‘Dunedin in 1859’, A. Banks and Son , Edinburgh, tinted lithograph on paper, 81 x 134 mm, Neg: 1837/12, both at Hocken Library, University of Otago.
Cargill, Otago, New Zealand: Information for the Guidance of Intending Emigrants, pp 33-4.
McGlashan, 8 October 1846, in ‘Journal of Voyage “Rajah”’; Shortland, The Southern Districts of New Zealand, pp 114-15.
Mrs W.H. Reynolds, Pioneering in Australia and New Zealand, pp 5, 14; Michelle F. Knauf, ‘Service, Sacrifice, Suffering and Smiles: Images of New Zealand Pioneer Women c. 1850-1950’, unpublished BA (Hons) dissertation, University of Otago, Dunedin, 1993, p 27; J.C. Stevenson, ‘Reminiscences of early pioneers, in Reminiscences of early Dunedin’, Box 17.7, Otago Settlers Museum, p 2; Jane McGlashan, 8 October 1848, in McGlashan, Journal of Voyage “Rajah”; Bannerman, ‘Reminiscences of her life’, p 47; Catherine Fulton, 2 September 1859, in Catherine Fulton, ‘Diary 1857-1861’.
Phillips, A Man’s Country?, p 5.
Grove, Green Imperialism, p 13.
Bannerman, ‘Reminiscences of her life’, p 48; Delumeau, History of Paradise, p 6.
James Watkin, 20 May 1840, Journal, May 1 1840-December 30 1844, typescript, in G.C. Thomson Papers, MS 440/4, Hocken Library, University of Otago; John Hale, The Civilization of Europe in the Renaissance, Harper Collins, London, 1993, chapter X, pp 512-83.
Jane McGlashan, 8 October, 1848, in McGlashan, ‘Journal of Voyage “Rajah”’; Bannerman, ‘Reminiscences of her life’, p 47.
Jane McGlashan, 8 October 1848, in McGlashan, ‘Journal of Voyage “Rajah”’; Edward Shortland, The Southern Districts of New Zealand, p 131; John Cargill, Otago, New Zealand, p 19; Scheme of the Colony of the Free Church at Otago, New Zealand, Scottish Guardian Office, Glasgow, 1845, pp 20-1.
William Martin, ‘Letter from William Martin, gardener, to his cousin’, Dunedin, 16 April 1849, in Otago Journal, V: 72-3.
Jane McGlashlan, 8 October 1848, in McGlashan, ‘Journal of Voyage “Rajah”’; Sarah Low, Letters: “Larkins”, 6 November 1849, typescript, Copy 61 (original MS unknown), Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin.
Kettle, 2/46, 7 April 1846, Port of New Edinburgh (Dunedin), Letterbook, 2/46, (7 April 1846), 23/46, (4 December 1847; Frederick Tuckett, 7 May 1844, in ‘Mr Tuckett’s Diary’, in Thomas Morland Hocken, Contributions to the Early History of New Zealand [Settlement of Otago], Sampson Low, Marston and Co., Dunedin, 1898, Appendix A, p 217.
Tuckett 24 May 1844, in ‘Mr Tuckett’s Diary’, Appendix A, pp 211, 223, 224; Burns to Gilbert Burns, 5 December 1848, in Burns, Letters, MS-0672, Hocken Library, University of Otago; ‘Extract of a letter from the Rev. Thos. Burns to the Secretary of the Otago Association’, Manse of Dunedin, 28 January 1849, in Otago Journal, V, p 69.
Watkin, 17 January 1842, in G.C. Thomson Papers, MS 440/4, Hocken Library, University of Otago.
J.T. Thomson, Sketch of the Province of Otago: A lecture (being one of the series delivered at Dunedin), W. Lambert, Dunedin, 1858, p 12; Kettle to Captain Cargill, 20 February 1850, Dunedin, Letterbook, 2/46, (7 April 1846), 23/46, (4 December 1847).
Watkin, 17 January 1842, in G.C. Thomson Papers, MS 440/4, Hocken Library, University of Otago; Bannerman, ‘Reminiscences of her life’, p 45; Fox, The Six Colonies of New Zealand, pp 12, 16.
Scheme of the Colony of the Free Church at Otago, pp 11, 18-19.
Otago Journal, V, p 67; I, p 6.
Shortland, The Southern Districts of New Zealand, pp 197-8; Mrs W.H. Reynolds, Pioneering in Australia and New Zealand, p 11. They did return to Dunedin, however. Watkin, 16 December 1843 in G.C. Thomson Papers, MS 440/4, Hocken Library, University of Otago. Watkin also found ‘wind and rain, snow and sleet’ as unbearable as a hot day. 3 August 1841, in G.C. Thomson Papers.
Lochhead, ‘Preserving the Brownie’s Portion’, pp 59-61.
Schama, Landscape and Memory, p 6.
Uvedale Price and Edmund Burke, cited in Francis Pound, Frames on the Land: Early Landscape Painting in New Zealand, Collins, Auckland, 1983, pp 19, 25.
Fernand Braudel, A History of Civilizations, translated by Richard Mayne, reprint, Penguin, New York, 1993, p 26; Shepard, pp 7, 11, 13.
James McKerrow, ‘Reminiscences of James McKerrow’, p 15.
‘No. 1 – Letter from a Settler to the Colony to a Relative in Britain’, Dunedin, 24 January 1860, in Cargill, Otago, New Zealand: Information for the Guidance of Intending Emigrants, Appendix, p 33. Paul Shepard, English Reaction to the NZ Landscape Before 1850, Pacific Viewpoint Monograph No 4, Victoria University of Wellington Department of Geography, Wellington, 1969, p 3. Such an assertion questions Shepard’s claim that forests ‘evoked gloom except when seen from the outside’.
‘Letters from settlers’, Dunedin, 5 May 1851, in Otago Journal, VIII, p 120.
Mrs R.C. Coote, 20 November 1861, Portions of a Diary, 1853-1867, kept by Mrs R.C. Coote, wife of Major H.J. Coote, copied from the manuscript for the National Historical Society, typescript, MS-0118, Hocken Library, University of Otago; The Cambridge Encyclopaedia, edited by David Crystal, Cambridge, 1990, p 191.
Wohlers, Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers, p 80.
Johnstone, 29 April 1858, Diary, January 21 1858-April 30 1858, in William Johnstone, Papers, MS-993/1, Hocken Library, University of Otago.
James Flint, 26 October 1860, ‘Journal Kept on Board Ship “Silistria”’.
Thomson, Sketch of the Province of Otago, p 3. Edward Shortland, The Southern Districts of New Zealand, p 189, Wohlers, Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers, pp 65, 70, 100.
‘Rev Thos Burns to Rev John Sym’, Port Chalmers, 25 April 1848, in Otago Journal, III, p 39; John Lort Stokes, 19 April 1849, ‘Journal of the Voyage of the Acheron 1849 to 1851’, MS Volume 157, Hocken Library, University of Otago; Jane McGlashan, 4 October 1853, 8 October 1853, in McGlashan, ‘Journal of Voyage “Rajah”’.
McKerrow, ‘Reminiscences of James McKerrow’, p 7; Thomson, Sketch of the Province of Otago, p 11; Wohlers, Memories of the Life of J.F.H. Wohlers, p 78.
Orbell, ‘Reminiscences 1849-1870’, pp 19, 93; Rev. Thomas Burns to Rev. John Sym, 28 September 1848, MS-0076, Hocken Library, University of Otago.
Sarah Low, 6 November 1849, Dunedin, Letters: “Larkins”, 11 September, 1849, typescript, Copy 61 (original MS unknown), OSM; Orbell, ‘Reminiscences 1849-1870’, pp 58-9; William Johnston to fiancée, Otepopo, 16 March 1860, in Letters, MS-993/1, Hocken Library, University of Otago; McLay, p 68 (spelling corrected); James Watkin, 8 January 1844, in G.C. Thomson Papers.
Marian Minson, ‘Promotional shots: the New Zealand Company’s paintings, drawings and prints of Wellington in the 1840s and their use in selling a colony’, in Edward Gibbon Wakefield and the Colonial Dream, p 159. Judith A. Johnston, ‘Pictures of a landscape: Images of relief features of New Zealand 1839-1855’, in Geoff Kearsley and Blair Fitzharris, editors, Southern Landscapes: Essays in Honour of Bill Brockie and Ray Hargreaves, Department of Geography, University of Otago, Dunedin, 1990, p 17.
See, for instance, ‘Letters from settlers 1.’, 5 May 1851, in Otago Journal, VIII, p 120.
Marian Minson, ‘Promotional shots’, p 14.
Pound, Frames on the Land, pp 21-3.
Gordon H. Brown and Hamish Keith, An Introduction to New Zealand Painting 1839-1980, David Bateman and Collins, Auckland, 1982, pp 13, 15.
Marian Minson, ‘Promotional shots’, p 166; Marian Minson, Encounter with Eden: New Zealand 1770-1870: Paintings and Drawings from the Rex Nan Kivell Collection, National Library of Australia, National Library of New Zealand, Wellington, 1990, p 15; Giselle Byrnes, ‘Inventing New Zealand: Surveying, Science, and the Construction of Colonial Space, 1840s-1890s’, PhD, University of Auckland, 1995, p 4.
Edward Immyns Abbot, Dunedin from Little Paisley, 1849, colour lithograph, 178 x 275 mm, A A126, Neg: 1836/8A, Hocken Library, University of Otago.
Marian Minson, ‘‘Promotional shots’ pp 160-1, 166.
John Turnbull Thomson, Dunedin, New Zealand, from Andersons Bay 1856, watercolour on paper, 186 x 382 mm, BT 485.1, Neg: 1835, Hocken Library, University of Otago.
Michael Findlay, ‘“The Edinburgh of the South”: Land and settlement in Otago’, in Southern Lights: 150 Years of Otago Landscape Art, Dunedin City Council, Dunedin, 1998, p 7; Louis Le Breton, Port Otago 1840, 343 x 479 mm, watercolour with charcoal, DC CL452, Neg: 616, Hocken Library, University of Otago.
Valpy, Forbury Farm, circa 1857, pencil on paper, Valpy Box 3, Acc No: 1978/5684, Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin; First Four Houses in Caversham, Dunedin, no date, watercolour, Valpy Box 3, Acc No: 1978/5683, Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin.
Cargill, Otago, New Zealand: Information for the Guidance of Intending Emigrants; Geoff Park, ‘Edward Gibbon Wakefield’s dream’, p 138.
Marian Minson, Encounter with Eden, p 16.
John McLay, ‘My Young Life in Otago’, Part One of Reminiscences’, in Papers: John McLay, Otago Peninsula Copy 70 (original in private hands), p 4, Otago Settlers Museum, Dunedin (passages punctuated and spelling corrected); Alexander C. Begg, 16 December 1859, ‘Diary of Voyage from Glasgow to Dunedin’, 25 July, 11 September 1860.
Colonel Wakefield to Mr Kettle’, Wellington, 1 November 1847, in Otago Journal, II, p 24. Kettle to Wakefield, 4/46, 21 March 1848, Dunedin, Otago Provincial Gazette quoted in Clayton, ‘Settlers, Politicians and Scientists’, p 90. Sarah Low, 6 November, 1849, Letters.
Shortland, The Southern Districts of New Zealand, p 177-8; Anne Black Fraser, I Remember 1848-1866, Reed, Dunedin and Wellington, n.d., p 10. Like McLay, Fraser wrote her comments after the event. Thomson, Sketch of the Province of Otago, p, 10.
James Beattie, ‘Alfred Sharpe, Australasia, and Ruskin’, Journal of New Zealand Art History, 27 (December, 2006), pp 38-56.