LAA Book Review: Beyond Manapouri

Beyond Manapouri - 50 years of environmental politics in New Zealand

Author: Dr Catherine Knight

Publisher: Canterbury University Press, 2018

Reviewers: Peter Kensington, planner and landscape architect at KPLC Ltd. Peter is also a past treasurer of the NZILA executive committee. Peter's 11 year old daughter Madi has also reviewed 'Beyond Manapouri' for us,  giving a perspective on how the next generation is approaching the environmental issues they will inherit.

Beyond Manapouri cover.jpeg

Peter Kensington

Beyond Manapouri provides a ‘no holds barred’ account of the truth behind why our nation’s past environmental stewardship actions have been inappropriate and inadequate.  Knight skilfully highlights how land management attitudes and certain key political decisions have influenced the state of our environment today.  Practical suggestions are offered on how we should, and can, do significantly better.

Reading this book will likely change your perception of the New Zealand environment.  It is a must-read for all New Zealand landscape architects, planners, resource management lawyers and indeed all New Zealanders that want to achieve a better future for their children and their children’s children.

Author Dr Catherine Knight.

Author Dr Catherine Knight.

The book is structured as easy to read topic chapters and takes the reader on a journey of discovery backed up by compelling facts and anecdotes.

Knight’s story-telling rings true for me, not just because many of the examples cited are from my childhood landscapes in the Manawatu, but because the themes underline the ideologies that I had when embarking on my professional studies in the late 1980s.

This book answers a lot of questions for me and fills in a lot of blanks in my understanding of how we as a nation have come to be where we are today and why our environment and landscape is in the state that it is now. Being a current New Zealand practitioner that often gets frustrated at how our best endeavours can get hamstrung by political, landowner and public expectations, I am now more knowledgeable.

One of the key messages that comes through in the book for me is that we, as a nation, need to change our ways if we are to succeed within an interconnected global environment.  If you think we are doing well, then think again.  As Knight confirms, we are certainly not the ‘clean green’ NZ that we portray ourselves as to the world.  We can’t hide from the fact that the stocktake of our environmental state of play is not rosy, likely stemming from many mistaken past land management decisions.  No doubt these decisions would have seemed logical at the time, but now, with hindsight, we know that they have had significant environmental implications.

But we could still get there one day, if we all do better.  As suggested by Knight, we need to learn from the past and move forward based on our knowledge and experience.

Finally, it is pleasing to see that various landscape architects are cited in Beyond Manapouri and we should commend Knight for highlighting the importance of promoting a better landscape understanding, including moving away from our “binary view” of landscape.

I urge you all to read this book and then influence as many people as possible that hold positions of power in order to make the changes suggested.  I also encourage you to visit to view Knight’s blog site where the story continues.

Landscape architect, planner and now book reviewer, Peter Kensington

Landscape architect, planner and now book reviewer, Peter Kensington

Madi Kensington - New Zealand has a rich history in environmental politics, and Catherine Knight recounts it beautifully in her book.  Beyond Manapouri is a must-read for anybody interested in the many debates on ecological matters in New Zealand.

This book perfectly explains how New Zealand has changed its view on the environment many times over the past 50 years. In the early days, our environment was regarded as something our government didn’t need to worry about, but as the years wore on, things started getting more serious. Knight has explained these issues with perfectly-worded descriptions and given real examples, making for convincing reading.

This book would be helpful if you wanted to:

-Find out how the rules and regulations around “swimmability” have changed

-Understand the significance of greenhouse gas emissions, and how they contribute to climate change

-See how the general population of NZ can help with making our country and the world cleaner.

Beyond Manapouri is an extremely interesting book, and I would definitely recommend reading it.

Eleven year old Madi Kensington.

Eleven year old Madi Kensington.