Shooting the Domain
The Domain may appear innocently bucolic but, as I explained in the first manifesto of the Committee for the Reconstruction of Space and Time on Pig Island, it was a marshalling ground for the biological invasion of the Waikato Kingdom in the 1860s. After a British army led by the melancholy pacifist General Duncan Cameron had conquered most of the realm of King Tawhiao in 1963 and 1864, the settlers who took over super-fertile confiscated lands around the Waikato and Waipa Rivers imported a series of species - trout, ragwort, orchids, blue duck - which had been nurtured in the ponds and gardens of the Domain by the Auckland Acclimatisation Society. On the slopes of Maungatautari and Kakepuku ragwort and gorse blazed amidst the ruins of felled forests; in the scores of peat lakes around Kirikiriroa trout feasted on long-isolated species of native fish.
After taking the advice Alfred Hitchcock gave us to heart, Paul has decided to use archaic technology to tell the story of the Great South Road and the events of the 1860s. He has sought out cameras which are hardly more advanced than the clumsy and cantankerous device that soldier-artist William Temple used to record his advance down the Great South Road into the Waikato Kingdom in 1863.
Apart from shooting the innocent-seeming waters and gardens of the Domain this morning, Paul and I will be visiting the ruined railway workshops which sit in the middle of the park's tract of bush. As Paul and I argued in one of the proposals for our film, New Zealand's rail system, with its hundreds of lovingly designed stations, branches to remote towns and villages, and impudently looping and spiralling sections of alpine track, was once an expression of the country's faith in modernity and industry. Since the deindustrialisation of the '80s and '90s, though, and the rebranding of New Zealand as a 'clean, green paradise' full of smiling hobbits happy to run hotels and B and Bs for wealthy American tourists, the rusting, economically useless regions of our rail empire have become an embarrassment. Sections of track have been torn up, or made into pleasant cycle lanes for ecologically minded tourists; old stations have become cafes filled with bad amateur paintings and flower arrangements.
Councillors and city planners are still arguing about whether the Domain workshops should become a cafe, a museum, or an acre of replanted bush; in the meantime, the station and the locomotives that sit hopelessly about it have acquired a devastated look, thanks to rot and rust, and to the winos that have made them into drinking dens. Tourists taking the train south from Auckland's new, minimalist central station can glimpse this ruin for a couple of seconds, before the trees of the Domain close over again.
[Posted by Maps/Scott]