Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Going nuclear

We drive up South Kaipara Peninsula, towards the nuclear power station the Holyoake government planned in '66. I look over mud and mangroves, looking for three concrete chimneys t rise from the harbour, like the necks of taniwha or the rotten fangs of anglers' landings.
Cerian tells me, again, that the plants was never built. But I sense another iteration of reality, where protesters never raised placards, where the Maui gas field sat undiscovered, where the mangroves were pulled up like toheroa, where theodolites rooted themselves in vacant mud.
We reach the lagoon, which is greay and heavy, like Chernobyl's concrete sarcophagus. Cracks spread across its surface. I roll down the window, feel the ions prick my cheek, taste metal on my tongue. In an hour the sun will set, an A bomb in reverse.

Saturday, July 13, 2019


Modern consciousness is medieval. Reports in our newspapers repeat narratives told by campfirelight centuries ago. Recently police went searching through a Northland wood; they found a meth lab, guarded by huge sodden ferns, and a missing man.

The man's family had declared him missing; they had no idea he had a secret lab, a secret life, in the bush. Out there, away from the panoptic gaze of townsfolk, the man turned from an ordinary citizen into a drug-making monster. The transformation is ancient.

For centuries Europe's witch hunters were tormented and titillated by stories of Satanic sabbaths, of men and women sidling away from their villages, and gathering, in moonlit forest clearings, to win occult powers with orgies and other offerings. Witches were ordinary people transformed by trees, night, secrecy.

The obsession with witches' sabbaths found its way into early European accounts of Pacific religions. In his book The Savage South Seas, E Way Elkington gives a gothic account of ni-Vanuatu men meeting in the jungle to drum and dance through the night.

The New Zealand Herald's report on the missing man and his meth lab is structured like an inquisitor's report on a witches' sabbath. The man entered the forest, shed his social identity, was possessed by evil, and used occult technology to produce a poison he planned to bring back to civilisation. He was, is, a witch; he will be tried, condemned.