Scenery preservation 1903-1953

Page 1 – Introduction

Lake Taupo painting
Lake Taupo painting

Our picturesque heritage

The time has arrived in the history of our colony when our scenery should be preserved, when the historic and beautiful places should be for all time conserved, and when we should do something to protect the thermal springs, which are of so great value to the country, from being destroyed and from falling into the hands of private individuals.

Premier Richard Seddon outlined this vision for 'God's own country' in 1903 as he steered the Scenery Preservation Act through Parliament. This act was an important landmark in preserving New Zealand's natural and historic heritage.

The Scenery Preservation Act was a new way of looking at the land. No longer was land's value purely economic. It also had scenic, scientific, historic and natural curiosity values that made it worth preserving for future generations to enjoy.

In 1953 the Scenery Preservation Act was repealed with the introduction of the Reserves and Domains Act. There were by now more than 1300 reserves and domains, covering more than one million acres.

Public and political attitudes to scenic and historic reserves had changed dramatically in 50 years. The Reserves and Domains Act was one of several new pieces of legislation in the early 1950s. The National Parks Act 1950 and the Historic Places Act 1954 were others. These last two were more specific pieces of legislation, but they had a clear administrative relationship with the Reserves and Domains Act. Without doubt, all could trace their origins back to the 1903 Scenery Preservation Act.