Friends of the Turnbull Public Programme – Unfreedom forest: A history of New Zealand’s prison plantations, Jared Davidson, 15 February 2024

Thursday 15 February 2024, 5:30pm to 6:30pm

Taiwhanga Kauhau — Auditorium, (lower ground) National Library Wellington or on Zoom.

Jared Davidson opens the 2024 Friends of the Turnbull Public Programme with a talk charting the history of New Zealand’s prison plantations — exotic forests grown by prisoners. In time these forests became extremely valuable and when they were sold off in the 1990s their privatisation was dubbed ‘he sale of the century’

The felons among the firs

Significant parts of New Zealand’s exotic forests were born and raised by prisoners. Siphoned out of city jails and onto vast prison plantations, by 1921 the incarcerated had been made to plant 15,932 acres with over 40 million trees.

In this talk, author Jared Davidson will chart the history of New Zealand’s prison plantations — from Waiotapu, Whakarewarewa, Waipā and Kāingaroa in the North Island to Hanmer and Dumgree in the South. These workscapes were subjected to human and extra-human forces of resistance, be it sabotage or sudden frosts, yet paved the way for state forestry and massive environmental change. By looking at ‘the felons among the firs’, Jared’s research paints New Zealand history in a whole new light.

About the speaker

An archivist by day and an author by night, Jared Davidson is an award-winning writer based in Lower Hutt. He is currently the Research Librarian Manuscripts at the Alexander Turnbull Library. Blood and Dirt: Prison Labour and the Making of New Zealand (BWB, 2023) is his fifth book.

More information can be found here.