Māori use of shelter
Māori developed techniques that allowed them to grow tropical plants such as kūmara (sweet potato), taro and yam (which they had brought from Polynesia) in New Zealand’s temperate climate. They built low stone walls, and added sand and gravel to soil to form mounds and to help warm it. These ‘stone fields’ are evident today in archaeological sites.
In the early days of European settlement, shelter for livestock on most farms was provided by remnants of native forest, left after the land was turned into pasture. These were clumps of native bush or individual trees scattered across a farm, especially in gullies of hill-country properties. Most have disappeared, and it has been largely up to farm forestry advocates, and more recently regional councils, to encourage farmers to use native bush for shelter.
Forests for farms
The New Zealand Farm Forestry Association was formed in 1957. In the early 2000s it had about 3,000 members in 29 branches. Members own or manage up to 100,000 hectares of forest – radiata pine, cypresses, eucalypts, Douglas fir, blackwoods, poplars, other hardwoods and native trees.
Shelter belts in Canterbury
Canterbury has New Zealand’s largest expanse of farmland planted with shelter belts. After Europeans settled there, the landscape was transformed from a droughty, treeless plain into a patchwork of paddocks edged by hedges and rows of trees. One of the earliest forms of shelter was gorse hedges planted on low sod walls. However, gorse spread and became a weed, and hedges needed work to maintain them. By the 1940s, many were being removed and replaced with post-and-wire fences and tree shelter belts. Still, in 1993 Canterbury had almost 300,000 kilometres of hedges and shelter belts.