Last weekend Skyler and I headed down to Rotorua, where trans-Tasman Marxist polymath Mike Beggs and his lovely partner Raych were getting married in the middle of a redwood forest. When we stumbled upon the scene, it looked like
a) 'something out of a fairytale', according to Skyler, or like
b) 'one of those old newsreels showing the leaders of obsolete European countries signing treaties in some obscure border wood', according to yours truly, who 'always has to ruin everything with an inappropriate similie'.
Later, as everybody drank free beer beside the filled-in pools at the Blue Baths spa, Mike's frighteningly erudite comrades from the Political Economy Department of the University of Sydney taunted me with elaborations of the finer points of autonomist Marxist theory and jokes about the New Zealand cricket team. A good time was had by all. In the morning Skyler and I navigated through the mists of hangovers to another, emptier forest. The Pureora Forest Park covers eighty thousand hectares of pumice plateau and low mountains to the west of Lake Taupo. Verged by doomed plantations of exotic pine and windy tussock, its podocarps - rimu, matai, and tawa - rise almost one hundred metres, mocking the metal powerlines beside the dusty roads that slide off Highway 32 toward Tauamaranui. In the late '70s some of the tallest trees were climbed by bolshie hippies, who were determined to keep Rob Muldoon's chainsaws out. Hone Tuwhare decided against joining them, but he did write an angry poem against the government's policy of logging virgin bush and replacing it with radiata pine:
Have given Private Enterprise
Permission for to strip
And rip-off Kauri, Totara,
Kahikatea for to supply
Timber for million-dollar
Yachts and mansion
Stop your raping of the land.
Protests helped ensure that the park wa closed to logging after 1978. The old logging road into the park has been turned into a walking track, and the site of one of the treetop protests has been preserved for visitors. The difference between rimu and radiata is the difference between two versions of the world.