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Failure to address our biggest environmental issues

Tackling reasons for New Zealand’s failure to address our biggest environmental issues

A new book, Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand, traces the history of environmental governance in Aotearoa New Zealand since the heady days of the 1969 Save Manapouri campaign and tackles the reasons for our failure to address our biggest environmental issues.

Dr Catherine Knight, an environmental historian, says her book – published by Canterbury University Press – suggests there are key cultural shifts New Zealanders need to make if real progress is to be made in the environmental sphere. Catherine draws on her insights as a government ‘insider’ having worked at the coalface of environment policy for nine years.

“We’re on the cusp of significant shifts in our environment and our attitudes towards it – unfortunately we’ve squandered the opportunity to make incremental change in the area of climate change policy, for instance, and it’s now becoming more urgent to make changes that could have more brutal social and economic consequences,” Catherine says.

Impeccably timed and written for a wide audience, Beyond Manapouri covers topics of freshwater management, land use, climate change and the strengthening role of iwi and hapū in environmental management. The book examines the legislation and establishment of institutions that followed in the wake of the campaign to stop the government from raising the water level of Lake Manapouri for a hydro dam, which is credited with the emergence of the environmental era in New Zealand. It shows how far we have come and reveals the underlying patterns in our approach to environmental issues, which transcend the government of the day.

“My hope is that the book will not only provide insights into the historical context of the environmental challenges we face today, but also spark discussion about the deeper changes that we need to make as a society in order to fully address these challenges into the future,” Catherine says.

Stunning photography throughout the book reflects the impact of environmental governance and policy on the New Zealand landscape.

Minister for the Environment Hon David Parker will launch Beyond Manapouri: 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand on Thursday 14 June, 5pm at Vic Books Pipitea, Wellington.

About the author

Dr Catherine Knight is the author of New Zealand’s Rivers: An environmental history (CUP, 2016) which was long-listed for the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards 2017, short-listed for the New Zealand Heritage Book Awards and selected as one of the Listener’s Best Books for 2016. Her 2014 book Ravaged Beauty: An environmental history of the Manawatu (Dunmore Press) won the J.M. Sherrard Award in New Zealand Regional and Local History, and Palmerston North Heritage Trust’s inaugural award. Catherine is a policy and communications consultant and lives with her family on a small farmlet in the Manawatu.

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