Review: Making Sheep Country

REVIEW: Robert Peden, Making Sheep Country: Mount Peel Station and the Transformation of the Tussock Lands, Auckland University Press, Auckland, 2011, 280 pp, ISBN 978-1-86940-485-7.

Jonathan West[1]

One winter not so long ago I walked with a friend along the El Dorado track, an old gold miners’ route into Central Otago, and then into the snow tussock grasslands of the Lammermoor and Lammerlaw ranges. This is a seldom seen upland, barely an hour’s drive west of Dunedin. It is a gently undulating landscape studded with schist tors, threaded by streams, cushion bogs, and swamps, and a canvas for the play of light and wind on tussock. People who know about such things have extolled its diverse flora (some love even its lichens), which also ensures the purity and constancy of Dunedin’s water supply. But I confess to visiting just to drink in the view.

The Lammermoors are often snow laden and the wind is unrelenting. We planned to gain some respite from the weather by staying our second night at a musterer’s hut which had sheltered us on earlier expeditions. But the hut had vanished. The Department of Conservation (DOC)  had decided that this relict of the land’s history, as a former part of the Rocklands Station high country pastoral run, no longer belonged in what had become Te Papanui Conservation Park. There are now no huts in the park at all, which DOC manages as a ‘remote recreational experience’. We found it so: Next day we awoke to a blizzard, got thoroughly lost, took refuge under a rock and, two days later, stumbled out through snow drifts to Lake Mahinerangi.

Whatever DOC does, Te Papanui may lose its remoteness as its outskirts are developed: Already the El Dorado track is a

major access route for an industrial windfarm Close by Landcorp is planting a Douglas fir plantation (with attendant potential for wilding pines). Such changes in high country land use are accelerating in the wake of ‘tenure review’.

Tenure review is the strange bureaucratic name given to the ongoing process of land reform that is splitting the high country, long held by runholders under pastoral lease from the Crown, into conservation land and freehold land.[2] Tenure review may eventually transform the land use of some 2.5 million hectares, or one tenth of New Zealand: an enormous tranche of territory that sweeps the length of the South Island between the main divide and the eastern plains. As Pete Hodgson put it to Parliament, ‘this is the last great land carve-up in our history … It is the point at which we almost settle the boundary lines on various ways in which we divide land use’.[3]

Tenure review has not proceeded with the speed first anticipated; nevertheless, some two thirds of pastoral lessees have engaged in the process. Recent statistics are hard to come by, but as of 2007, tenure review had resulted in some 176,000 ha (58 per cent) of land being freeholded and about 127,000 ha (42 per cent) being returned to full Crown ownership. [4] With few exceptions, higher altitude land has entered the conservation estate, while lower more productive land has become freehold.

Tenure review thus looks set to complete what the late ecologist and historian Geoff Park identified as a ‘particular duality of our national landscape, which is either protected as indigenous or developed as not, with nothing in between’. Park mourned the lack of ‘middle landscapes’ with ‘legislative mandate’, ‘in which the urge was to progress both people and the land’s indigenous life’.[5]

The ‘hole in the middle’ – to borrow a phrase – of Park’s account is the high country. His story begs the question: Where in our national understanding should we situate the pastoral high country? Pastoralism was a sustained experiment in trying to straddle the geographic and historical divide between unbridled development and strict conservation in this country. What were its successes and failures? How should we tell the story of the high country?

The Lammermoor and Lammerlaw landscape
Former musterer’s hut

The ‘hole in the middle’: The conservation estate and the high country[6]

Pastoralism has defined the high country since the great pastoral runs were taken up in an explosive expansion between 1856 and 1865[7]. The era of ‘extensive pastoralism’ ended in about 1914, by which time most were subdivided. But, until the close of the twentieth century, the cultural and ecological constant of the high country remained the matter, as Robert Peden’s title puts it, of Making Sheep Country: of shaping land and sheep to suit one another. Throughout the history of the high country there have always been at issue the questions of whether, and to what extent, pastoralism can be made both ecologically and economically sustainable.

In what Robert Peden calls ‘the orthodox account’ extensive pastoralism was essentially ‘exploitative pastoralism’: Runholders applied minimal inputs to their vast properties, while exporting maximum outputs.[8] The result was an immediate and ongoing ‘ecological debacle’.[9] Pastoralists, it has long been said, used fire indiscriminately: They burned too widely and too often, and then grazed the burnt tussock too soon and too hard, trying in vain to maintain excessive stocking levels. They thereby depleted vegetation, stripped soil fertility, increased bare ground and accelerated erosion. Subsequent irruptions and persistent infestations of pests and weeds, most especially rabbits and hawkweed species, which have continued to plague the high country ever since, are considered symptomatic of the degraded environment created during the era of extensive pastoralism.[10] Pastoralists themselves are indicted as being at best ignorant of the ecological consequences of their actions, but all too often greedy and rapacious to boot: fly-by-night ‘wool kings’ whose primary interests were in funding lavish lifestyles. So told, the story of the high country bears all the hallmarks of the fall that is environmental history’s familiar fare.

Making Sheep Country challenges this ‘orthodox account’ of high country history. Peden issues a sustained rebuttal to what he identifies as its central tenet, namely ‘that the interaction of burning, overstocking and rabbits created a degraded landscape’. Peden’s primary case study is Mt Peel Station, which lies on the true right bank of the Rangitata River in South Canterbury. His various data sets cover many other stations, however, and his analysis encompasses the high country as a whole. Peden takes particular pains in so doing to stress the significance of environmental variability – both within and between the high country stations. Indeed, perhaps his primary point is that in assessing the ecological effects and economic results of pastoralism the ‘variations in landscape and climate across the grassland environment cannot be emphasized enough’.

Peden acknowledges only that ‘[p]astoralism reached its ecological limits in the semi-arid and hard mountain country’ – but he promptly counter-points this against ‘the successes of pastoral farming elsewhere’. His point is that in more conducive environments runholders were able to improve their properties, and so intensify land use and increase inputs. In sum, wherever possible, runholders practiced ‘pastoral farming with a view to the long term, not exploitative pastoralism’.

William Cronon’s urging is apposite here: ‘[t]he moral of a story is defined by its ending: as Aristotle remarked, “the end is everywhere the chief thing”.[11] Peden closes thus: ‘Without doubt, Mt Peel Station is a highly modified environment; it is also a highly successful property’.

This story of the high country inverts the orthodox account. It is a progressive story of improvement, whereby pastoralists made an early and often successful transition away from exploitative pastoralism and, when not constrained by aridity and rabbits, arrived at an ecologically and economically sustainable form of pastoral farming. Peden arrives at this uplifting conclusion by way of three substantive chapters which test the central tenets of the orthodox account, followed by three chapters which outline an alternative explanation for the various outcomes of extensive pastoralism. There is much to admire here: Peden’s history is throughout tautly argued, crisply written, and quite beautifully illustrated.

Peden’s three initial chapters conclude that pastoralists’ burning was largely judicious; that there is no evidence that they overstocked their runs; and that the rabbit irruption, inevitable and initially irresistible, was the key cause of land degradation. Peden contends, however, that degradation during the pastoral era was essentially confined to arid districts where rabbits have been uncontrollable; in wetter areas, rabbit populations could be controlled, and little or even no degradation occurred.

Peden’s point of departure in his counter-narrative is that the very possibility of pastoralism was predicated on initially enormous fires. John Barton Arundel Acland and Charles George Tripp, two young men who together came out to New Zealand in 1855 ‘to take up the challenge of sheep farming’, burnt off tall tussock (Chionochloa spp.) and scrub so that they could explore the Rangitata River, in the country that would become Mount Peel Station. Acland wrote that ‘it would be impossible almost to go far without burning’. Just one of their fires burnt some 50,000 acres, and was seen 60 miles away.

The pastoralists’ second key reason for using fire was that it was absolutely necessary to reduce the mass of tall tussock and tangled shrubbery into a much shorter pasture more palatable to sheep. But Peden’s survey of diaries from ten stations suggests their subsequent burning practice was fairly infrequent, seasonal, and much more small-scale. Fire is characterised as an essential land management tool, but one which pastoralists used with the judicious respect and discrimination implicit in writer and runholder Samuel Butler’s admonition, ‘[b]urn, however, you must, so do it carefully’.

The twin chapters that follow address the entwined issues of the effects of rabbits, and the question of whether pastoralists overstocked their runs. Peden’s arguments are undisguised, and his narrative is driven by a sustained analysis and excellent harnessing of evidence. The points are simple, but no less powerful for that. Peden argues that there is no evidence of overstocking or decline in pastoral condition anywhere prior to the irruption of rabbits. He provides a visceral sense of the rolling wave of destruction unleashed by the plague of rabbits, and demolishes, to my satisfaction at least, the contention that rabbits became a plague because pastoralists had already depleted the vegetation. Peden acknowledges, as he obviously must, that the combined effects of sheep and rabbits did destroy the tussock grasslands of arid Central Otago. But he makes a sustained case that where rabbits could be controlled the vegetation largely recovered. Most importantly, he then demonstrates that the established way of assessing overstocking – measuring declining sheep numbers – is woefully inadequate. Here his long experience in the industry comes to the fore, as he provides an expert analysis which shows just how different an impression is gained by looking at the actual stock loading rather than the raw sheep numbers. Peden illustrates, for example, that declines in sheep numbers (in some areas) mask increases in the stock loading, as heavier cross-bred sheep replaced merinos, and as flock structures changed from initially emphasising ewes (to build the population) to lighter wethers (preferred for providing more wool from the same quantity of feed) and then back to ewes again (once the frozen meat trade provided a reason to build the flock, and to carry meatier animals). Again, the findings are that outside the arid areas, pastoralists either successfully adjusted their stock loadings to cope with the arrival of rabbits, or (in the absence of rabbits) maintained or increased their stock loadings.

All of this sets the stage for Peden to trace an alternative history, wherein the early pastoralists were ‘by and large’ successful improvers. Peden’s second three substantive chapters emphasize the range of improvements pastoralists made, as they intensified land use wherever possible. Here, Peden is often very sure-footed, and at ease in a considerable technical literature. First, he examines how through fencing, cultivation, oversowing, and drainage, runholders tried, at least in so far as their capital, aptitude, and location allowed, to make the transition from ‘exploitative pastoralism’, which involved minimal or no inputs, to pastoral farming, involving inputs of resources, energy, and technology. Peden then argues, persuasively, that the impact of refrigeration on pastoral practice was evolutionary, not revolutionary: South Island pastoralists were ideally placed to dominate the new markets opened up by the emergence of the frozen meat industry only because of their established successes in selective sheep breeding. Finally, Peden examines the financial realities of pastoralism. Here he dwells on the wide range of economic outcomes, emphasising the importance of luck, in timing entry and exit into the business, and ‘the quality of the natural resources of the different runs’. This too is careful and considered analysis.

Peden has to be very careful: The history of the high country is intensely politicised, and even though Peden ends his chronology in 1914, his positions have obvious implications for contemporary concerns. Peden is coy about acknowledging this, – but he is unable to resist a final parting shot at those critics who he believes have presented an ‘incomplete and slanted story, [which] has strongly influenced the administration of the Crown pastoral leases in the last three or four decades’. It seems safe to say, then, that Peden is unlikely to approve of the current process of tenure review.

More especial care is needed because this book is justified by the claim that there have been ‘too many untested, untenable and emotive statements’, about pastoral practices, tussock burning in particular, with ‘sweeping conclusions’ drawn from ‘meagre evidence’ and ‘precious little sustained historical research’. Peden implicates a ‘lineage’ of critics, culminating in botanist Sir Alan Mark and soil conservator Chris Kerr, in committing sins including: ‘Quotations taken out of context, lack of evidential support for claims, extrapolation of data from a particular location to include all of the grasslands, and biased selection of evidence’.

Peden makes many telling points in his critique of evidence presented in support of the orthodox narrative. A particular highlight is his demonstration of how Lady Barker’s ‘exceeding joy of burning’ has been allowed to stand as proxy for an entire class of people who, as James Belich put it ‘became addicted to arson’. Peden was a shepherd and high country station manager for over twenty-five years before turning to the post-graduate research on which this book is based; he has an unerring eye for such easy targets, and he quite rightly has little patience with high country history as bad joke anecdote.

It is as well to note that Peden’s conclusions in respect of the pastoralists’ use of fire are not novel.  As he acknowledges, they echo and augment earlier work in the 1990s by historical geographers Ray Hargreaves and Peter Holland, and (in particular) by American historians James Hoy and Thomas Isern, whose examinations of station diaries prompted a more nuanced view of burning practices. Peden’s deprecation of their work as ‘simple in its scope’ is somewhat unfair, in fact. Hoy and Isern not only presage Peden’s key points about the pastoralists’ use of fire (and subsequent careless criticism), but offer some perceptive lines of analysis which Peden does not explore.  For example, they suggest that the Royal Commission on the Southern Pastoral Lands of 1920 when ‘faced with evidence of depleted lands but committed to the practice of burning, fashioned themselves a straw man, or perhaps a grassman – the irresponsible pastoralist, not named, who ignited the tussock by whim’.[12]

There are, however, troubling aspects that smack of straw-man caricature in Peden’s portrayal of ‘the orthodox account’. He downplays heterogeneity in the historiography of the high country in the interests of rhetorical clarity; but he pushes this too far at times. Some of his points have been made before; in other cases there are third opinions, as with Kevin O’Connor’s views (of which more later). More importantly, when Peden names and shames his ‘orthodox’ opponents he makes too little effort to present their best case, and so does some a disservice.[13]It does not seem particularly fair, for instance, to castigate Alan Mark for careless omission of six admittedly crucial words (‘of the pasture in arid districts’) in quoting John Buchanan’s warnings about burning, while ignoring Mark’s lifetime of scientific work which is what actually forms the primary underpinning for his conclusions that most tussock grassland ecosystems have been ‘seriously depleted and visibly degraded’.[14]

This brings us to the heart of the matter: What constitutes ecological degradation? What counts as evidence of it? Historians of the pastoral high country, and scientists making inferences about the distant past by studying the ecological effects of ongoing pastoralism, are not using the same tools, and seldom use the same criteria for analysing change. And there are no neutral criteria. Evaluating change, and invoking terms such as ‘degradation’ always involves value judgements. So even where all concerned make the different parameters of their analysis clear, this does not necessarily take us very far in resolving the debates over the effects of pastoralism in the high country.

New Zealand’s ecologists have suggested that in the high country tussock grasslands ‘[t]he most important “degrading” factors, are those that lead to nutrient, biomass and species losses from the system’.[15] Further, it has been suggested that early exploitative pastoralism caused the most severe losses in these parameters.[16] Certainly, the conflagrations that opened the tussock grasslands to exploitative pastoralism caused massive losses in biomass; considerable quantities of nutrients went up in smoke too.[17] And, as Peden too acknowledges, burning, when followed by sustained grazing, has ‘irrevocably changed the vegetation cover’: Tall snow tussock became short fescue tussock, and inter inter-tussock plants were often eaten out.

However, Peden’s gauge for land health is its economic carrying capacity as sheep country. ‘Clean’ ‘sweet’ short tussock is good, because sheep grow fat on it; ‘scrub’ or ‘sour’ ‘rank’ tussocks and grasses are bad because they don’t. He is unconcerned by the loss of biomass, or of species’ populations, per se. An ecologist might look at grazed short tussock grassland and see ‘only the persistence of the physiognomic shell’, but Peden perceives this as ‘clean’ tussock country.[18]

In what sense is the change from tall to short tussocks a form of degradation? Peden does not dwell on this point, but implicit in his arguments is the position that there is no climax or equilibrium end-state to these ecosystems. And, even if indigenous temperate grasslands are ‘perhaps the world’s most beleaguered biome’, Peden might still question how meaningful it is to talk of a primordial base-line.[19] It is very telling how Peden contrasts the effects of Polynesian burning against European burning and grazing: When Polynesian colonists burnt existing forest east of the main divide, they allowed the spread of tall tussocks, and confined short tussocks to unstable sites; European colonists’ burning and grazing with sheep simply ‘reversed this process and encouraged the spread of short-tussock’.

It may be true that ‘to be economically sustainable any system must also be ecologically sustainable’.[20] But, as noted, it is still rare for these criteria to neatly align. Maintaining the total pool of nutrients is, however, a pre-requisite for both long-term pastoral and ecological land health.[21] Almost by definition, exploitative pastoralism removes nutrients from the system (however defined) through exporting economic outputs such as wool, meat, and stock. Burning removes nutrients through transforming vegetation into smoke and ash, and through plants transferring nutrients above ground in order to rejuvenate. Snow tussocks, for example, redistribute large quantities of nutrients from roots to shoots following spring burning; this makes them preferentially palatable to stock.[22] Erosion also removes nutrients, and wind and sheet erosion from bare ground exposed following vegetation loss is probably the most significant erosion problem in the high country (whereas the spectacular scree slopes once implicated in this regard are often very old and have little or nothing to do with pastoralism).[23]

In sum, while natural weathering provides a trickle of nutrients, the overall nutrient equation under pastoralism may remain in perpetual deficit without the input of fertilisers.[24] Ecologists consider that the effects of these long term imbalances have only recently become evident. O’Connor’s work, for example, has suggested that for over one hundred years, extensive and exploitative pastoralism ‘continued to wear away at nutrient capital, principally through animal grazing and nutrient transfer’.[25] This was why, in the mid 1990s, a Working Party on Sustainable Land Management (a group dominated, let it be noted, by farmers) simply equated exploitative pastoralism with unsustainable pastoralism, and concluded on that basis that fully 80% of high country land management was unsustainable because that was the proportion of the high country still being grazed (and sometimes burnt) without fertiliser inputs.[26]

Peden downplays this fundamental problem. He rightly explains that pastoralists did not improve the ‘hard hills and mountains’ because it was not economic to do, and because they did not understand that nutrient deficiencies restricted legume growth.

But it is not until his final page that he indicates anything at all of the consequences of ‘[d]eclining soil fertility and trace element deficiencies’ which ‘showed up in poor pasture productivity’. And of course, like O’Connor, Peden argues this problem was ‘resolved’ after World War II when the advent of aerial top dressing and over-sowing, especially with legumes, allowed run holders to increase production on lower altitude lands, and so reduce stock loads on tussock.[27]

It is worth reiterating at this point just how uncompromising Peden’s position is. Professor of Range Management Kevin O’Connor’s account of the history of pastoralism is a useful yardstick in this regard, since in the polarised environment of high country history he has taken pains to adopt a measured stance. Peden’s reluctance to openly criticise O’Connor is noticeable; despite their evident differences, he is acknowledged as ‘a valued and testing mentor’ who remains discreetly unnamed at some significant points of tension in Peden’s narrative.

The narrative arc of pastoral history in O’Connor’s hands commences with an initial ‘eruptive phase’, when it was ‘essentially a speculative and exploitative adventure’.[28] Sheep numbers rose at a rate close to the biological maximum, he suggests, since pastoralists made their money from wool, and saw no immediate gain in culling their flocks. This ecological irruption was ‘almost entirely gained by chewing into the native pasturage’; it peaked in the 1870s, and O’Connor (writing with Lynne Lochhead and Chris Kerr) considers it is ‘difficult to escape the conclusion that the nearly 8 million sheep on unimproved range by 1871 was a non-sustainable population’.[29]

Whatever the case, in O’Connor’s model, the high country began to deteriorate from this point, and continued its fall well past the end of extensive pastoralism in the early twentieth century, to reach its ‘nadir’ in the early 1950s. It is significant that O’Connor’s data is drawn from the arid Vincent and Lake counties, and Peden is right to point out that his work should not be uncritically extrapolated from and applied in wetter country. From the 1950s, O’Connor suggests high country health has been restored, somewhat, in the wake of the ‘celebrated but belated’ Land Act 1948, which provided for stock limits, required ‘good husbandry’, and made land disturbance discretionary, and after pastoralists could use aeroplanes to apply inputs to much more of the high country.[30] O’Connor concludes that it was ‘a partnership of science and practice [that] extricated high country pastoralism from a downward spiral to ruin and redirected it to a viable path’.[31] O’Connor’s then, is a third narrative arc for high country history, describing a parabola of eventual redemption.

There are many points at which it might pay to test Peden’s thesis against O’Connor’s. O’Connor’s high country history stresses, for example, that sheep were an ecological irruption in much the same way that rabbits were, with populations reproducing at close to the biological maximum. Perhaps, then, the coincidence in the 1870s of the peak in the irruption of sheep with the advent of the rabbit plague makes it problematic to rely, as Peden does, on the rise in sheep numbers until that point as evidence there was little or no problem with early overstocking. On the other hand, as noted, Peden has provided a very careful analysis of trends in stock loading, and has argued persuasively that runholders in the 1870s shaped their flock structures to emphasise wool production rather than reproduction.

Peden’s invaluable contribution has been to provide the first truly systematic analysis of the historical record of the initial era of extensive pastoralism. But it is still O’Connor, a soil scientist and land historian, who draws what I feel is the correct inference from the historical record: The question of whether the high country would have deteriorated from livestock grazing alone ‘cannot be answered by history’.[32]

However hard it is for any one person to encompass an array of such disparate knowledge, our collective understanding of the high country must be informed by integrating the historical record and scientific inference. This echoes the larger need not to retreat from trying to make an honourable home in which we live and work in the natural world.

My mind is far from made up on this point, but my philosophic tendencies do not sit easily with the current process of tenure review, which threatens to abandon the one sustained effort we have made in this country at living in productive landscapes where the indigenous vegetation remains economically and ecologically significant. We should not deceive ourselves: We should not simply celebrate a victory when we create parks such as Te Papanui. In the wider scheme of things, these are rather admissions of our defeat, in the search to live with ourselves and our world.

[1] Jonathan West gained his PhD from the University of Otago with a thesis on the environmental history of Otago Peninsula. He is now a senior historian with the Waitangi Tribunal in Wellington.

[2] Tenure review is a voluntary process which began in a somewhat ad hoc way in 1991 while the Land Act 1948 remained in force; it is now conducted under the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998. Thirty-nine leases passed through tenure review under the Land Act 1948, resulting in about 107,000 hectares being freeholded, and about 75,000 hectares becoming part of the conservation estate. It is also worth noting that pastoralist runholders also had the right to convert leases to freehold between 1922 and 1948. Only 10 runholders did so. See K. F. O’Connor, Lynne Lochhead and I. G. C. Kerr, ‘Administrative and managerial responses to changes in economic and ecological conditions in New Zealand tussock grasslands’ Information Paper No.5, Lincoln College, Canterbury, 1986, p 7.

[3] Pete Hodgson, NZPD, 7 May 1998, p 6829. Tenure review conducted under the Crown Pastoral Land Act 1998 is a voluntary process, but as late as 2003 the government believed that it would be complete by 2008. See Office of Ministers of Agriculture; Rural Affairs; Land Information and Conservation, Government objectives for the South Island high country: Report back [to Cabinet] (2003), p 15 (fn 10).

[4] In addition, the Nature Heritage Fund managed by DOC has been used for a handful of whole property ‘purchases’. Government statistics tend to collate – and then conflate – these two processes, so as to arrive at an apparently even 50:50 split. See Ann Brower, Who Owns the High Country? The Controversial Story of Tenure Review in New Zealand, Craig Potton Publishing, Nelson, 2008, pp 111-114.

[5] Geoff Park, ‘A Moment for Landscape’ in Theatre Country: Essays on Landscape and Whenua: Victoria University Press, 2006, p 196, p 202.

[6] J. McFarlane, ‘Cutting up the High country: The Social Construction of Tenure Review and Ecological Sustainability’, PhD thesis, Lincoln University, 2011, p 3.

[7]K. F. O’Connor and D. Scott,, ‘Issues and options in high country farming’, Proceedings of the New Zealand Grassland Association, 58:, p 135.

[8] Kevin O’Connor coined the term ‘exploitative pastoralism’. See for example K. F. O’Connor, ‘The implications of past exploitation and current developments to the conservation of South Island tussock grasslands’, New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 5 (1997), p 97.

[9] Kevin O’Connor, ‘The use of mountains: A review of New Zealand experience’ in A. Grant Anderson (ed), The Land Our Future: Essays on Land Use and Conservation in New Zealand in Honour of Kenneth Cumberland, Longman Paul, Auckland, 1980, p 210, p 214; Alan Mark, ‘Effects of burning and grazing on sustainable utilisation of upland snow tussock (Chionochloa spp.) rangelands for pastoralism in South Island, New Zealand’, Australian Journal of Botany, 42 (1994), p 150.

[10] See for example Mark, ‘Effects of burning’, pp 158-9.

[11] William Cronon, ‘A place for stories: Nature, history, and narrative’ The Journal of American History, 78, 4 (1992), p 1368.

[12] James F. Hoy and Thomas D. Isern, ‘Bluestem and tussock fire and pGreat Plains Quarterly, 15 (Summer 1995), p 175. Hoy and Isern refer to the Report of the Commission Appointed to Inquire into and Report upon the Southern Pastoral Lands, AJHR, C-15, 1920.

[13] Although when someone is saying something truly silly Peden refrains from naming them: He does not identify Steven Eldred-Grigg as the writer of A Southern Gentry, nor Roberta McIntyre as the author of ‘a recent history of the South Island, published in 2008’.

[14] Alan Mark, ‘Ecological degradation’, New Zealand Journal of Ecology 17, 1 (1993), p 2; it is noticeable that in his scientific work Mark is more careful, for example he refers to ‘[e]arly concern about the impacts of burning in the drier regions (Buchanan 1865)’. Mark, ‘Effects of burning’, p 151.

[15] ‘Review of South Island high country land management issues: Joint submission to the ministerial high country review committee from the New Zealand Ecological Society and the New Zealand Society of Soil Science’, New Zealand Journal of Ecology 18, 1 (1994), p 73.

[16] Kevin F. O’Connor, Alan H. Nordmeyer, and Kristin Svavarsdottir, ‘Changes in biomass and nutrient pools of tall tussock grasslands in New Zealand’, in O. Arnalds and S. Archer, (eds), Case

Studies of Rangeland Desertification: Proceedings from an International Workshop in Iceland: Rala Report No. 200, Agricultural Research Institute, Reykjavik, p 139, pp 141-2; Richard P. Duncan, Robert J. Webster and Carol A. Jensen, ‘Declining plant species richness in the tussock grasslands of Canterbury and Otago, South Island, New Zealand’. New Zealand Journal of Ecology 25, 2 (2001), p 35; M. J. McSaveney and Ian Whitehouse, ‘Anthropic erosion of mountain land in Canterbury’, New Zealand Journal of Ecology, 12 (Supplement) (1994), p 158.

[17] O’Connor et al, ‘Changes in biomass’, p 139.

[18]O’Connor, ‘The implications of past exploitation’, p 103.

[19]Alan Mark and Bruce McLennan, ‘The conservation status of New Zealand’s indigenous grasslands’, New Zealand Journal of Botany, 43 (2003), p 245.

[20]‘Review of South Island high country land management issues’, p 69.

[21]‘Review of South Island high country land management issues’, p 69, p 71.

[22]Mark, ‘Effects of burning’, p 153.

[23]McSaveney and Whitehouse, ‘Anthropic erosion’, p 158; McFarlane, ‘Cutting up the high country’, pp 97-98; O’Connor et al, ‘Changes in biomass’, p 142.

[24]Mark, ‘Effects of burning’, p 158.

[25]O’Connor et al, ‘Changes in biomass’, p 142.

[26]McFarlane, ‘Cutting up the high country’, p 104.

[27]O’Connor, ‘The implications of past exploitation’, p 103; McFarlane. ‘Cutting up the high country’, p 5.

[28]O’Connor et al, ‘Administrative and managerial responses’, p 3.

[29]O’Connor et al, ‘Administrative and managerial responses’, p 4.

[30]O’Connor, ‘The implications of past exploitation’, p 100.

[31]O’Connor, ‘The implications of past exploitation’, p 104.

[32]O’Connor, ‘The use of mountains’, p 210.