Story: Fire and agriculture

Mesopotamia Station after burning

Mesopotamia Station after burning

The runholder’s family poses for the camera in front of the Mesopotamia Station homestead in 1871. The vegetation is tussock grassland, created by burning. Writer Samuel Butler held the lease from 1860 to 1864. He described the early burning of this landscape: ‘I have seen no greater sight than the fire upon a country which has never been burnt, and on which there is a large quantity of Irishman [matagouri]. The sun soon loses all brightness, and looks as though seen through a smoked glass. The volumes of smoke are something that must be seen to be appreciated. The flames roar, and the grass crackles, and every now and then a glorious lurid flare marks the ignition of an Irishman, his dry thorns blaze fiercely for a minute or so, and then the fire leaves him, charred and blackened forever.’

Samuel Butler, A first year in the Canterbury settlement. London: Longman Roberts Green, 1863, p. 60

Using this item

Alexander Turnbull Library, Making New Zealand Centennial Collection (PAColl-3060)
Reference: MNZ-0386-1/4-F

Permission of the Alexander Turnbull Library, National Library of New Zealand, Te Puna Mātauranga o Aotearoa, must be obtained before any re-use of this image.

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How to cite this page:

Robert Peden, 'Fire and agriculture - South Island sheep runs: tussock and scrub', Te Ara - the Encyclopedia of New Zealand, (accessed 19 June 2024)

Story by Robert Peden, published 24 Nov 2008