Nga Uruora: The Groves of Life - Ecology & History in a New Zealand Landscape
‘Ngā Uruora is an immensely important contribution to our emerging sense of nationhood. I predict that it will become a classic.’
‘[Ngā Uruora is] one of the most illuminating and exciting books that I have read on aspects of the natural history of New Zealand … Park has brought the grace and lyrical qualities of a master story-teller to his writing.’
—Otago Daily Times
Ngā Uruora: The Groves of Life takes the study of New Zealand's natural environment in radical new directions. Part ecology, part history, part personal odyssey, this book offers a fresh perspective on our landscapes and our relationships with them.
Geoff Parks’ research focuses on New Zealand's fertile coastal plains, country of rich opportunity for both Maori and European inhabitants, but country whose natural character has vanished from the experience of New Zealanders today. Beginning with James Cook's Endeavour party on the Hauraki Plains, and then the New Zealand Company's arrival in the valley that became the Hutt, Park takes us through the river flatlands where the imperatives of colonial settlement transformed the original forests and swamps with ruthless efficiency.
Ngā Uruora's primary journey, however, is to four auspicious places - Tauwhare on the Mōkau River, Papaitonga in Horowhenua, Whanganui Inlet and Punakaiki on the South Island's West Coast – where small remnants of the plains forests' indigenous ecosystems of kahikatea and harakeke still survive. The histories of these places, what they mean to Māori, their ecological vulnerability and their significance for conservation are major concerns. Park ties these issues together through the experience of the places themselves, their magic, immediacy and beauty.
Alert to how ecology and history interact, and with respect for different ways of knowledge, Park takes issue with those ecologists who say that by the time Europeans arrived the fertile coastal plains had already been ravaged by Maori. He believes that if the last survivors of ngā uruora are to become part of the quest for more sustainable ways with the land, the vital part Māori played keeping them alive last century will have to become central, once again, to their care.
Geoff Park’s Ngā Uruora: The Groves of Life: Ecology & History in a New Zealand Landscape, has become a classic of New Zealand environmental writing, and has been reprinted regularly since its 1995 publication.
Dr. Geoff Park was born in 1946 and grew up at a quintessential edge of the Empire – between the primeval forest and the antipodean suburb. A passionate childhood curiosity with the former led to university training in ecology and a career as a Crown research scientist, and then Concept Leader Natural History at The Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, before becoming an independent ecologist and writer. His second book, Theatre Country: Essays on Landscape and Whenua, was published in 2006. Constantly underwriting his ecology was the realisation that while New Zealanders are blessed with national parks and wild mountains, few have any idea of what happened to our nature in the lowlands. He passed away in 2009, leaving us a legacy of deeper appreciation of our own unique ecology – and the value of these last remaining wild fragments.