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New Zealand's Burning — The Settlers' World in the Mid 1880s

Locality, region, colony

page 121

Locality, region, colony

‘The Village and the Globe’ was a strong pattern, but the settlers' views of their place in the world were an untidy and confusing mix which cannot be neatly crystallised under simple labels. To get across something of this diversity we will briefly examine the conflicting pattern of ‘locality, region and colony’. Regional consciousness had been there from the founding days, owing much to the regional character of the Wakefield settlements and the provincial period, and much also to the sheer facts of geography. It continued to have more reality in the settlers' minds than the 1876 county system. Some smaller provinces, such as Nelson, Marlborough, and Southland, had sufficient unity to serve as popular regions, but in the popular consciousness the larger provinces were broken into smaller regions such as the Mackenzie Country, Central Otago, the Wairarapa, the Seventy Mile Bush, the King Country. The improvement of communications and the general modernising of colonial society were in the process of strengthening both regional and colonial organisation and consciousness at the expense of localism. Following the 1870s Vogel development drive national organisations of all kinds began to multiply; for example firefighters (1878), educators (1883), Baptists (1882), temperance advocates (1886), seamen (1880). But the very improvement in communications which was making this possible was also creating a cross current—the deepening of an Australasian consciousness, giving rise to trans-Tasman organisations.12 So the settlers' mental maps were an untidy jumble in a state of flux, and we must be careful not to falsify the picture by too much tidying up.