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NZ’s pioneering spirit and the settlers’ battle with/for the land

June 17, 2012

“The early pioneering enterprise that began with a battle for the land was followed by a battle with the land. The dominant spirit was one of independence and personal accomplishment through the tough work of clearing the bush by slashing and burning.

Grey and his immediate successors delayed the establishment of provincial government because of the distruct and rejection of the settler community. But when it finally happened the distrust was transferred upstairs as the provincials fought bitterly to prevent the establishement of a national administration. There is a deep strand of parochialism here which is strangely at odds with our readiness to shift from place to place.

The pioneering era required a gritty toughness of character. Whereas Maori ‘lived light’ on the land, the pioneers set out to impose an alien image of pastoral England on the dark, dank bushlands. Through to the present the clearing of land has continued long after it has become obvious that there was no good economic reason to do so. Whacking down the bush became an obsession, scrub-cutting a duty.

We who inherited this land have also inherited what those pioneers did to it and what it did to them in the process. Although much of it remains beautiful , a great deal has been so scarred that parts may simply become arid deserts, continuing symbols of the violence done to the land.

The New Zealand masculine stereotype has its foundations in this pioneering past. Male ‘mateship’ was built upon ‘slogging it out together’, on mutual dependency for long periods of time. ” (p.90)

“The theme of the tough, resourceful Kiwi bloke, modest, but capable of anger when roused, and of violence if necessary, recurs throughout our short but surprisingly turbulent history.” (p.91)

Ref: (italics in original)  Jane Ritchie and James Ritchie (1993) Violence in New Zealand. Huia Publishers and Daphne Brasell Associates: Wellington


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