Ka Mua, Ka Muri-Walking Backwards into the Future: An Environmental History of the South Wairarapa Region 1984-2016
‘Ka mua, ka muri’, Walking backwards into the future, is a Māori proverb that aptly describes the findings of this thesis. That we should look to the past to inform the future is arguably the purpose of history, yet we have to walk back far enough. Tracing back from the present, this thesis will address what has driven political, economic, environmental and social change within the South Wairarapa region from 1984 to the present day. The region has experienced significant changes to its physical and social environment over the past thirty years. Many modern historians have attributed the key changes of this period, such as agricultural intensification, diversification, rising unemployment and environmental degradation, to the economic re-structuring of the Fourth Labour Government. This thesis will argue that these changes, and neoliberal reform itself, are consequent of much longer historiographical trends. Examination of the historical context and legacies of the intensification of dairy farming, rise of the viticulture industry, and the relationship between Ngāti Kahungunu and Rangitāne o Wairarapa and their whenua, reveals complexities in the history of the region that histories of neoliberal change commonly conceal. The identification of these long running historiographical trends aides understanding of the historical context in which neoliberal reform occurred, and provides alternative narratives for the changes that have occurred over the past thirty years. Furthermore, it suggests alternative trajectories for how viticulture, agriculture and Te Ao Māori may walk into the future.