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Keeping it in the family

Are people who inherit family farms more likely to care for the land?

This is one of the questions that Dr Jane McCabe (Department of History and Art History) is seeking to answer in her “cross-cultural history of land and inheritance in Aotearoa”.

McCabe has been awarded a Marsden Fund Fast Start grant for the research project that focuses on two farming districts: Taieri in the south and Hokianga in the north.

McCabe, who grew up in Mosgiel on the Taieri Plain, says that she chose the two rural districts partly because they provide a diversity of cultural backgrounds: notably Scottish and Chinese on the Taieri; and Māori and Dalmatian in the Hokianga.

“I want to look at farming families in a wider sense: different kinds of land use and different cultural perspectives,” McCabe explains.

The lecturer plans to put on her gumboots and talk to family members about the practices and problems of transferring land to the next generation.

“My overarching concern is the connection between people and land. Inheritance practice is a meaningful way of exploring how people attach to the land and of assessing the pros and cons of familial land transfer as we move increasingly towards corporate ownership models.”

McCabe says that she intends to write a book and academic articles based on her research, host a workshop at Otago involving international and New Zealand scholars who are working on rural history, and disseminate her findings in public and community forums.

Photo: Graham Warman
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