Author(s): Catherine Knight
While "Ravaged Beauty" is about the environmental history of one North Island region, the impact of human settlement and accompanying development for improving human settlement conditions is typical of many New Zealand regions. This impact, graphically illustrated in this well researched and entertainingly told history, gained great pace with the arrival of European settlers in the mid 1800s. Only a century and a half ago, the Manawatu was a heavily forested hinterland: the floodplains were a sea of swamps and lagoons, teeming with birdlife, eels and other fish; the hills and terraces were covered with thick impenetrable forest, refuge perhaps to a few lingering moa. But within a few decades, the forest had been reduced to ashes, and the swamps and lagoons were being drained away. Progress marched across the landscape in the form of farms and settlements. However, it wasn't long before nature "exacted its revenge": erosion scarred the hillsides, floods ravaged farms and towns. Pollution of the rivers saw fish dying en masse. How would the people of the region meet these environmental challenges, and what lessons would there be for the future? By "peeling away the layers", this book tells the intriguing story of the Manawatu's environmental history, drawn from a rich array of sources, maps and historical images.
Catherine Knighthas long been fascinated by the interactions between people and the environment – what factors drive human behaviour, and how people’s attitudes and knowledge about the environment evolves. Her research is not limited to New Zealand – her doctorate explored the complex relationship between humans and bears in Japan, where she lived for six years. Catherine was born in the Manawatu, and her realisation about how dramatically that environment had changed since European settlement motivated her to write this book. In 2010, Catherine was awarded the New Zealand Research Trust Fund Award in History, and in 2012, she was awarded the Claude McCarthy Research Fellowship. Catherine works in environmental policy, and lives in Kapiti with her young family.