Farmers proud to be the guardians of ancient drawings

Jane and Peter near the limestone rocks where examples of Maori rock art designs have been found. Photo: Cosmo Kentish Barnes In South Canterbury there are hundreds of Maori designs on limestone rock, some of

Jane and Peter near the limestone rocks where examples of Maori rock art designs have been found.
Photo: Cosmo Kentish Barnes

In South Canterbury there are hundreds of Maori designs on limestone rock, some of which may be up to 1,000 years old.

Peter Evans believes it was his grandfather who discovered the ancient drawings on the cliffs above his Pareora Gorge sheep and beef farm.

His grandfather developed an interest in rock art beyond what was on the family farm and passed his curiosity on to his children.

“He and his children in the 1920s went looking for rock drawings in the area…because they knew they were special and unique,” ​​says Peter.

When they found new sites, they did not tell many people about them for fear that the drawings would be covered in graffiti and damaged.

Jane and Peter Evans

Jane and Peter above their farm.
Photo: Cosmo Kemtish Barnes

“Some time later an artist named Theo Schoon stayed with the family and he went around the area and recorded them and maybe even touched up some of the drawings, so they wouldn’t disappear.”

Another theory is that Schoon retouched drawings (with pencils) so he could take better photos of them.

Peter’s wife, Jane, says he was employed by the Department of Lands and Surveys to find and photograph the drawings.

“He stayed with families in the area and, in exchange for his board, he made portraits of family members.”

Surroundings Rosemary Clucas of Canterbury in the Moa Valley near Timaru.

Rosemary Clucas in the Moa Valley.
Photo: Cosmo Kentish Barnes

Today, Environment Canterbury’s Rosemary Clucas advises landowners on the potential impact of irrigation and agriculture on limestone rock art.

She worked with the Evanses to establish agricultural buffers around the sites.


“They asked for consent to use the land for farming and as part of that they demanded an agricultural environmental plan…and the plans under the recent changes now include provisions for rock art and the Mahinga Kai”.

Today, metal fencing protects the rock art, and the Evanses have adapted farming practices to safeguard the designs.

“We have irrigation on this farm so we need to get consent for certain activities now, but where they are here they are in a very safe place,” Jane says.

Moa Valley

A fence protects a rock art site in the Moa Valley.
Photo: Cosmo Kentish Barnes