by Neville Peat, with Brian Patrick & Aalbert Rebergen
It was with some excitement that I picked up this book to read. I’m a great supporter of protecting bodies of water from the ravages of human intervention and pollution, so gung-ho I went in only to discover it was not quite what I expected.
Rivers Rare is about an ecological project (Project River Recovery), officially set up in 1991 to observe, save and protect the native flora and fauna of New Zealand’s Waitaki catchment braided rivers subject to ‘hard engineering control’, primarily by the hydroelectric power scheme in place above these rivers. It is a project funded by Meridian Energy and Genesis Energy in co-operation with the Department of Conservation. This book is a historical record of small beginnings, big undertakings, and chronicles the work of the staff and helpers involved in Project River Recovery to clear the rare braided rivers of introduced and native-life-threatening plants and animals in order to save native species and their homes from extinction.
What is a braided river? I like this beautiful quote from page 6 to help one understand: ‘From the air, braided rivers are a network of shimmering silver ribbons, more pretty than powerful. But gently powerful and unpredictable they are, always creating new channels, new twists and turns, and reworking the gravel islands and sand bars into new shapes.’ The constant about braided rivers is that they constantly change.
At first I enjoyed the flow of this work, learning about how the rivers operate unpredictably and the life that they sustain, also how rare they and their inhabitants are in this world. It got a bit too technical for me though, too scientific for this arty mind.
This small book represents a huge amount of work, the first 25 years of a project full of ecological highs and lows, but all the facts and figures, all the scientific language seems particularly tailored for those in the know and closely affected by the findings. It is a celebration of sorts, even if the results aren’t satisfactory in all cases, a coffee-table book for ecologists perhaps?
My thoughts were on water quality itself, something that wasn’t quite mentioned enough for me, but I am glad to have learned a little about the native life trying to live in a rare slice of New Zealand.
This book will suit those with scientific minds, and perhaps anyone attempting an ecological report for a university paper? Rivers Rare feels like a findings report that belongs quite comfortably in a university reference section for serious review.
Author: Neville Peat, with Brian Patrick & Aalbert Rebergen
Publisher: Project River Recovery, Dept of Conservation
Available: online and instore University Bookshop https://www.unibooks.co.nz/