The Landscape Pattern
The air approach to Harewood brings in to view at once all the major elements of Canterbury's geography. Immediately below the aircraft lies a unique feature in the New Zealand landscape, the checkerboard pattern of the fields, emphasised in early spring by the dark colour of ploughed land against the green pasture, and in early summer variegated by the distinct hues of cereals, crops, and pastures. This farm land extends across the gravel fans which make up the plains; the pattern is broken by stretches of poor dry pasture, where the gravels are coarser, and by the darker stains of coniferous forests. Across all this is lain a reticule of roads and irrigation channels drawn in strict, undeviating, linear patterns. To the west lie the foothills, broached through strikingly terraced gorges by the principal rivers that pour out on to the plains, their wide, cursive, braided river beds crossed by narrow road and rail bridges. Beyond are the foothills of the Southern Alps in all their majesty. Christchurch City, its commercial and industrial sector hidden in a gardenlike landscape, laps on to the foot of Banks Peninsula (q. v.), itself a remarkable structure – a dissected basalt dome with erosion calderas at Lyttelton and Akaroa.
The absence of forest and the extensive level surfaces of tussock land explain in part the early prominence and economic importance of Canterbury. Without significant gold discoveries to provide a stimulus, economic development depended upon the establishment of pastoralism and agriculture. In the process of development many problems associated with the exploitation of a new environment and the elaboration of suitable institutional framework were encountered for the first time. Canterbury's prominence in the political, social, and academic life of the country must in part be attributed to the successful manner in which so many of the new problems were solved.