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Give us space, light, sun, distant sea and hills – not dismal bush

  • December 11th, 2018

For bouquets and brickbats, here are the notes for today’s soap-box commentary on Jim Mora’s RNZ Panel

I love trees. I’ve planted hundreds – to feed birds and bees. I’ve got over a thousand hectares from which stock has been excluded, regenerating native bush. But tree worshippers need to be called out.

A couple of weeks ago I re-rode the Queen Charlotte Track. Mile after mile of what was last time a glorious ride on top of a world of water views and hills, are now dreary aisles of manuka, kanuka, five finger, and ake ake. Sure, there are picnic stops with quality tables, and look out points, but much of the trip is now enclosed in dismal and (when we rode it) dripping vegetation. Increasingly the pressing trees form a dense canopy. So in those sections spirits can’t be lifted by  a bright sky  with clouds skudding overhead.

It is the same in the Makara MTB Park. Once you could feel you were riding in the sky. You shook off all feelings of the city, of walls, of being enclosed, soon after you climbed out of the valley floor. Now only the newest tracks are open above and below. And every scar with dwarf vegetation, every slip is jammed with young forest trees, all carefully planted in protective sleeves. In 10 years there will be kilometer after kilometer where only the gradient, and probably the riders’ GPS devices will tell them they are on magnificent hills, and not in a canyon.

Are Councillors too scared to question this obsessive community tree planting. Or is it only me who finds the encroaching forest depressing, blocking  light, sun and most of all the wonderful views. Many of Wellington’s tracks must feel sinister to women anxious about safety. Seemingly impenetrable walls of green and brown keep hidden everything more than a couple of metres off the track.  And that same vegetation keeps the tracks damp.

Of course in midsummer the tracks are delightfully cool. But then those who have seen townships burn in Australia must wonder how much will be left of some of our suburbs if we get a drought then fire and high winds. In Australia – they say to keep inflammable trees at least 30m clear from houses. Clearly fear of fire has had no impact on this attempt to turn Wellington back to an imagined pre-European state.  But why has this drive to turn us into a forest not riled people who do not want  gloomy winter paths, streets, houses. Is the slipperiness immaterial?

We are not forest animals. We are clearing dwellers. Maori usefully burned much land long before European pasture animals arrived. Even after they’d run through the usable moa they burned forest to get bracken hills for food. I have every sympathy with them. The film the Piano showed what is wrong with trying to live cheerfully in evergreen forest.

I’m sorry that it will probably take a catastrophic fire to reign in the tree nuts, and restore some balance and voice to people who want light and air and views – or at least to have deciduous trees that give light and air in the gloomy days of winter.



  • Trevor Hughes
  • December 13th, 2018
  • 3:05 pm

I agree with you. This absurd obsession to return New Zealand to its imagined pre-European past is a nonsense. In a city of mainly wooden houses, trees and bush are a serious fire hazard during a dry spell. They also obstruct many stunning views around Wellington. It seems we are dictated to by an impervious and arrogant eco-elite who are having a collective nervous breakdown about their ethnic guilt and lack of authenticity. It’s a modern take on original sin. I wish they would go and flagellate themselves somewhere else.

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