Te paraiti: The 1905-1906 potato blight epidemic in New Zealand and its effects on Maori communities.

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Harris, G. F.
Potato late blight
Phytopthora infestans
Te mate riwai
Te paraiti
Blight epidemic
Maori agriculture
Description of form
Rights holder
Issue Date
Peer-reviewed status
Working Papers
In 1905 and 1906, a potato blight (Phytophthora infestans) epidemic infected potato crops throughout New Zealand. It had a particularly devastating effect on Maori, many of whom, by the end of the nineteenth century, had become dependent on the potato as their primary food source. This study of the blight epidemic, and how it affected Maori, is preceded by a discussion on the evolution of traditional Maori horticulture. The paper is presented in two parts. Part 1, Maori horticulture - from prosperity to poverty, is an overview of Maori horticulture, from the introduction and adaptation of the tropical kumara or sweet potato to the temperate climate of Aotearoa and the adoption and commercial production of European crops, including the potato, to the decline of Maori crop production and the circumstances leading to the dependence of Maori on the potato. Part 2, Te Paraiti - the blight, looks at the arrival of the blight and the extent and duration of the epidemic, its effects on Maori communities and the effectiveness of a range of initiatives undertaken by the government to provide assistance to Maori. While the effects of the epidemic were not as catastrophic as the series of blight epidemics that devastated Europe, and in particular Ireland, 60 years earlier, it was nevertheless a significant event in New Zealand's history.
Harris, G. F. (2006). Te paraiti: The 1905-1906 potato blight epidemic in New Zealand and its effects on Maori communities (Working Papers No. 1-06). Lower Hutt, New Zealand: The Open Polytechnic of New Zealand.