In New Zealand, the destruction and preservation of history often occur simultaneously. The construction of roads and large buildings adds to our knowledge of the past, because surveyors and builders are obligated to call in archaeologists before they begin their depredations. The interesting thing is carefully recorded, and then efficiently destroyed.
A team of archaeologists excavated the land where the new freeway will flow, and discovered a pa built long before the battle of Rangiriri; another layer has been added to the history of the site. The small reserve around the remnant fragment of earthworks has also been tidied up, and given a new set of signboards and a ceremonial arch.
Despite all these enlightened activities, I can't help but feel there's something barbarous about the way our nation's most important road runs right over the fortifications built to stop the roadbuilders and landgrabbers who started the Waikato War. It is as though the men who pushed the road through Rangiriri wanted the invasion of the Waikato to be repeated endlessly, by generations of bullock wagons and Morris Minors and Sunny Datsuns.
The bulldozers, though, are neutral. If their orders only changed, they would contentedly plough up the expressway, and gouge new rifle and kumara pits in the riverside soil, and dig new trenches in which a new army of invaders could stumble and bleed.
[Posted by Scott Hamilton]