Making Sheep Country: Mt Peel Station and the Transformation of the Tussock Lands

Robert Peden


‘If anyone had to produce a revisionist history of the South Island's pastoral era, it had to be Robert Peden. This treatise is the product of his rare combination of academic scholarship and long-time practical high-country farming experience. It fearlessly but fairly tackles the myth of pastoralists as rash, ignorant, unprincipled and greedy. Peden demolishes the myths about despoliation of tussock grasslands’ – Mike Crean,Press


First the squatter, then the runholder, after that the farmer . . . Taking us inside the world of New Zealand’s South Island sheepfarmers – the sheep they bred, the rabbits and droughts and floods they fought, the fires they lit, the grass they grew, the risks they took – Peden offers a sweeping portrait of the economic and ecological transformation of New Zealand.

From the 1840s to the First World War, the South Island was transformed as runholders claimed large tracts of land, burned off the native vegetation and initiated large-scale sheep farming for wool and, later, meat production. In Making Sheep Country, Robert Peden focuses on one case study in particular, John Barton Acland and Mt Peel Station in South Canterbury, to explain how the pastoralists modified their environment.


Winner, J. M. Sherrard Award in New Zealand Regional and Local History 2015


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After 25 years shepherding and managing sheep stations in the South Island, Robert Peden completed a PhD thesis, which was recorded as ‘Exceptional’, at the University of Otago in 2007. In 2009 he was awarded a Claude McCarthy Fellowship. Now an independent historian (, Peden has recently worked on Te Ara: The Encyclopedia of New Zealand and researched Treaty of Waitangi claims.Making Sheep Country is his first book.

Winner, 2012 ARANZ Ian Wards Prize


May 2011, 240 x 185 mm, 296 pages, colour & b/w illustrations
Paperback with flaps, ISBN 9781869404857, $49.99