A Human Ecology Of Urban Ravine Restoration: A New Zealand Example

by Mairi Jay1 and Ottilie Stolte2

1Department of Geography, Tourism and Environmental Planning, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand

2Department of Psychology, University of Waikato, Private Bag 3105, Hamilton, New Zealand


This study reports the results of a survey of owners of properties that are part of a system of ravines networking the city of Hamilton, New Zealand. It explores attitudes, knowledge, and ravine management by urban residents who seem well placed to undertake protection or restoration of indigenous flora and fauna.

The results highlight the diverse attitudes and objectives of property owners and some of the barriers they face when undertaking management of their ravine. Most ravine improvers were motivated by a “gardening ethic” rather than an “ecology ethic”; that is, their primary objectives were recreational enjoyment of gardening, practical concerns such as erosion control, or aesthetic goals such as tidiness or beauty. Even the minority whose primary aim was environmental (“bring back native birds” or “restore native vegetation”) tempered their decisions with aesthetic considerations such as retaining views or avoiding shade.

Perceptions of the ravine varied from those who considered it a problem to those who regarded it as a source of peace and tranquility, beauty, or privacy. Owners who viewed their ravine negatively felt overwhelmed by an “uncontrollable jungle of weeds”; conversely, people who viewed their property in a positive light had either exerted sufficient order to feel in control of the invasive vegetation, or viewed the jungle of mixed native and exotic species as valuable for qualities beyond the domain of domestic control, such as “wilderness,” “adventure,” “habitat for birds,” or “beauty.”

Keywords: urban, gardening, ecological restoration, New Zealand.