Indispensable classic refreshed once again

This is the book that every Dunedin resident with the slightest interest in our natural world should own. Many already do.

Wild Dunedin

Neville Peat & Brian Patrick
Otago University Press

First published in 1996, when it won the Natural Heritage category in the inaugural Montana (now Ockham) Award, it is now on its fourth edition. Its endurance is a testament to its usefulness as a handy guide and reference. This one is a light refresh after the significant revisions of the 2014 version.

Brian Patrick is a respected scientist and curator, while Neville Peat is a prolific author who includes many natural history titles in his catalogue, so both are well grounded in their subject matter. The writing is accessible, never dull, and at times lyrical. Peat's ``Summer Solstice Musings'', reflections from the summit plateau of the Rock and Pillar Range - a place I love - had me nodding in agreement.

If you doubted Dunedin's claim to being New Zealand's wildlife capital, this book will show you there's more than albatrosses and seabirds. The city's size - New Zealand's largest until the Auckland merger - encompasses many landscape, rock and climate types, and this contributes to its biodiversity. The authors stray beyond the city boundaries where the biogeography means it makes sense to do so - so Lake Waihola and the Waipori Gorge, both significant sites, are covered. They take us from the coast, through cloud forests and tussock and up into the subalpine areas, and cover everything from marine mammals to falcons, forest trees to lichens. They tell us that Dunedin is home to 31 endemic species - five plants, a lizard and 25 invertebrates.

The illustrations are excellent. Most are by the authors, particularly Peat, but shots from a wide range of other photographers are included. There is an extensive bibliography for those who wish to dig deeper, as well as a tri-lingual index using Maori, English and scientific names.

If you own a well-thumbed 1996 or 2002 edition, treat yourself to an upgrade. If you have never owned a copy, treat yourself and have your eyes opened to what is around you.

David Barnes is a member of the New Zealand Conservation Authority and lives in Lower Hutt.


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