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North Otago Museum curator Chloe Searle said after consultation with the public about what they wanted to see in the new building space it was clear there was demand for local stories about how people affected the environment.
‘‘It’s always really important for them to see [themselves] reflected in the museum.‘‘We know people are really interested in moa and farming.’’
Ms Searle said there was a proposal a permanent exhibit would include a focus on the arrival of Polynesians who started their settlement with bush clearing, hunting of moa and the introduction of dogs and rats.
The North Otago environment would have been a stark difference from tropical Polynesia for the first Waitaki community arrivals, she said.
‘‘We’re used to looking at North Otago and seeing quite a treeless landscape, but that’s not what the first humans living in the Waitaki would have seen.’’The arrival of European settlers could also be portrayed, she said.
That time period included the introduction of sheep, rabbits and the ‘‘amazing’’ transformation of the area in terms of plants. ‘‘Most of the pasture grasses would have had to be introduced and planted. That’s quite amazing, the work that had to go into doing that.’’
The proposed exhibit could also include pieces that reflected the area’s historic industries such as sheep and grain, she said.
Since settlement, one of the district’s core industries, farming, had changed rapidly which had changed the environment, so those changes, good and bad, would be tracked as well, Ms Searle said.
‘‘Like gorse hedges — at first they seemed like a good idea.’’