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Rosemary McLeod on the plant police

  • September 5th, 2010

Yes! Yes! Yes! there is nothing to add, nothing to take away from today's perfect Rosemary McLeod column in the Sunday Star Times.

She skewers those who are steadily removing from our cities the light colourful scented plants that evolved in company with bees, those who tell us we must prefer the damp enclosing gloom of native rainforest to the airy understory characteristic of forests that need to drop their leaves to survive winter.

She deplores the official reverence for pohutukawa – and dares to prefer human uses, like a view or drains that stay unblocked, ahead of pohutukawa. 

I love pohutukawa. I've planted and nurtured a number in various places. I'm glad Wellington streets have them. But it is refreshing to see Rosemary's subversive identification of pohutukawa with the oppression of those who have "ethnic spirals tattooed up their arms and loudly deplor[e] all non-native plant species, as if this will make them dinkum tangata whenua instead of just posers."

For true heresy try this:

"The only native plant I've knowingly acquired is a white clematis, just starting to flower, which smells pretty good, too. The plant police haven't made it here yet. They'd love it to be planted in flaxes, the dull kelp of dry land, because "that's what would have been here naturally". Oh yes, and manuka scrub would have been here too, I dare say, and bare, stony earth, and tufty things like upturned scrubbing brushes, and I expect the wind howled overhead, and the seagulls squawked, and the tuatara gamboled and the moa warbled.

But I say it's no bad thing that the country's orchards are just now seas of pink and white blossom, that daffodils and jonquils are sprinting out of the earth, and that magnolias everywhere are magnificent, or that I battle against nature to have something to put in vases. So you can stick your boring flaxes – and especially your nasty pohutukawa – right up your plant police jumpers. I won't be having them".

As I read that I thought of Irene Van Dyk's husband and his contractor, who cleared some manuka and gorse without all the necessary permissions. Van Dyk was fined $15k and the contractor more. Remember that our law is now incapable of stopping a drunk killer driver from accumulating 17 convictions for driving while disqualified, yet it will spend thousands targetting decent people for clearing the scrub on their own land.


  • peterquixote
  • September 8th, 2010
  • 6:29 pm

Know what you mean about save the plant at all costs Stephen. 
That idea caused Black saturday in Victoria, and in Queensland they sell Blue gum firewood at $10 a bag.  Yes that's right they have twenty five zillion tons of blue gum but you can't cut it down.

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