Book Review: Maungawhau – A Short History of Volunteer Action, by Friends of Maungawhau

Available in local bookshops within the Maungawhau area.cv_friends_of_maungawhau 

Friends of Maungawhau (FoM) has been in existence since the 1980’s as an informal group of local residents. It began as a sub-committee of the Mt Eden planning group. Under Sue Bulmer’s leadership, the FoM was formed. She built a close relationship with various people including Ngati Whatua heritage advisor Ngarimu Blain and historian Pita Turei. FoM was incorporated in 2002. This book is a history of the work of this group, and more broadly, a history of the industrial background of the region.

FoM’s objectives are to preserve and protect the natural and cultural character of Maungawhau and to defend it against harm and unsustainable use. FoM’s focus is on practical volunteer action and care for the natural environment and advocacy for co-ordinated management.

Maungawhau was once the site of a large terraced Pa, one of the three largest in Tamaki
Makaurau. From the 1840’s onwards, Maungawhau  was used by settlers for grazing of cattle, horses, goats, pigs and geese. In 1930 this ceased, following grass fires during the long hot summers, but it was to resume in the 1940’s. This was seen as a way to control vegetation. From the 1960’s Bob Linton leased land on Maungawhau; with his son taking over the leases in 1995. They grazed Hereford-Friesian crossbred calves for a year, removing them at eighteen months of age. Concerns were beginning to surface over the impact of the cattle on archaeological features. Also weed control was becoming a major problem with erosion after spraying.

In earlier years at least five pits were quarried on the flanks of Maungawhau – something I am familiar with from my own family history. Erosion is now a huge problem in all areas.

Invasive plants have also been a major issue, because early plantings of areas of Maungawhau included plants that are now considered noxious weeds. Native planting was done intermittently. Of more recent times, public planting days were held.

In the 1990’s and early 2000’s a few keen people largely working independently began to take practical steps to show what could be done with sustained effort. Experiments were carried out with different species with some successes with canopy and understory planting. 2000 – 2006 Kit Howden supervised public planting days and regular volunteer weeding sessions.

Throughout New Zealand, groups such as the FoM, are maintaining areas such as this, in a state that all can enjoy. The amount of work that groups such as the FoM do is phenomenal.

This is a very detailed book which also outlines FoM working closely with Council and Iwi to define strategies and solutions to the problems of the area. This has resulted in some successes, but it is evident that considerable work needs to be completed to achieve the FoM’s objectives.

This book was a real eye opener to me – the dedication by this particular group is astounding and because of this and other similar groups archaeological and historic sites all over New Zealand are being preserved.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Maungawhau – A Short History of Volunteer Action
Written and published by the Friends of Maungawhau (Mt Eden)
ISBN 9780473298470

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