The transformation of Aotearoa New Zealand.
From forests and wetlands to farms and settlements, this exhibition explored the fascinating and dramatic impact of humans on the land.
Many ancient stone tools of Maori have survived to the present day. The variety of stones from which they are made supports the conclusion that the first people of this country undertook a thorough geological survey of the land. The tools were traded widely, some being found a thousand kilometres from their original source – these sources ranged across the country.
The stout-legged moa, Euryapteryx geranoides, was a mid-sized bird at home in forest fringes and scrublands. A considerable amount of fossilised remains of stout-legged moa exist due to the good preservation properties of their habitat and the frequency with which they turn up in Maori middens.
In the 1800s wool was a major export commodity for New Zealand. But this big money earner was threatened with scab, an infectious disease accidentally introduced from Australia.
This Jersey cow was stuffed in the 1950s so that it could show, literally, the source of milk. Before its public demonstrations, liquid was poured through a zipped section of the cow’s neck and into its udder; then the rubber teats could be worked to produce ‘milk’ like a real cow.
When people arrived and settled in Aotearoa, the kiore (Pacific rat) came with them. Kiore were an important source of protein for Maori, as indicated by the abundant remains of bones in sites where Maori lived.
The kakapo (Strigops habroptilus) is the world’s largest parrot. It is flightless and spends most of the day looking for fruit. With its slow, deliberate lifestyle, it could be described as a sloth of the bird world.
The laughing owl, or whekau, become extinct in the early twentieth century. The last known bird was one found dead on a road at Blue Cliffs Station, near Timaru, in 1914. The species had succumbed to the clearance of its habitat to create farms, and to newly introduced predators. Stoats, ferrets, and cats proved especially fatal for the birds.
If you visit Fiordland National Park, Nelson Lakes, or another wilderness area in New Zealand, and you hear an eerie roar booming through the forest, chances are you’re in ‘red deer country’. What you’re hearing is the rutting call – the ‘roar’ – that a stag uses to establish territory and attract mates.
The ancestors of Maori would have arrived at these shores steeped in rich fishing traditions and practice, and would have adapted this fishing culture to local conditions, species, and materials.
Shearwaters are a member of the petrel family. Of the five known species in New Zealand waters, the sooty shearwater (P. griseus) is the most common, and during the breeding season it is the most numerous sea bird in southern New Zealand waters. Its worldwide population is estimated at sixty million but recent evidence indicates that this population is declining.
A voracious and indiscriminate eater, the painted apple moth (Teia anartoides) destroys plants by eating their leaves. This invader from South Australia is a threat to forestry, horticulture, and possibly indigenous trees.
After the birth of a baby it is customary Maori practice to bury the whenua (afterbirth) in the land, most often in a place with ancestral connections. This act has deep cultural significance. Underpinning it is the belief that human beings were first made from earth, from the body of Papatuanuku (the earth mother).
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