Trees are tops
As Kiwis we don’t mind a bit of hard work. And we love camping. Why not have a work camp?
People often get a little miffy when I suggest that the Government should set up work camps. That’s understandable, as the work camp does suffer a little stigma from its somewhat overzealous use by various totalitarian regimes.
But are we not a nation that loves camping? To pitch a tent under a shady bough is surely worth any amount of forced labour. What work could we do at these camps? Why, we could green this pleasant land.
Trees for pleasure, trees for planks, trees for carbon credit banks. Fruit trees, native trees, trees for birds and trees for bees.
Havens for biodiversity, trees are useful for rehabilitating waterways, stabilising land, harvesting humidity in a drought, cleaning the air and most importantly, excellent for stretching hammocks between. Add a tyre on a rope and they create the perfect children’s play space. They can also put food on the table they have coincidentally been used to make. It’s time to push for bush. Imagine, if you will, legions of the underemployed, transgressors of the law, or simply those with the requisite passion, all sent forth with nationalistic enviro-zeal to plant trees in every corner of the land.
“Trees for pleasure, trees for planks, trees for carbon credit banks...”
Along waterways, on hillsides, in towns, at schools, wherever there’s suitable space they could turn the sod and plant the seed of a new national scheme that would forever change the landscape for the better.
It is not without precedent. After our initial phase of wanton deforestation we became the planters of the Southern Hemisphere’s largest plantation forest. Kaingaroa was the woody jewel in our tree crown. Planted in the 1920s, it covers 2900 square kilometers, an area roughly the size of Samoa. And we could do it again.
The hills and valleys could ring with the strident sound of the new foremen, ex-middle-managers, egging their charges onwards to the foliage frontier. At night, sweatstained and exhausted, they would mooch about admiring their newly lithe limbs, content in the knowledge they had made a difference.
In years to come, they would look at the reforested lands and say to their spawn: “We did that,” knowing that they had literally put down roots in their own country.
New Zealand already has in its pantheon two great but largely unsung tree-men.
Douglas Cook founded Eastwoodhill Arboretum near Gisborne, which contains the largest variety of Northern Hemisphere trees south of the equator. In autumn the hills flame with vibrant colour. A remarkable feat, made all the more noteworthy as he is reputed to have planted much of it while wearing little more than a single gumboot and a satisfied smile.
I’m certainly not encouraging people to engage in a frenzy of nude planting, especially given today’s high UV levels, but it might appeal to German ecotourists.
Unsung in New Zealand, George Munro replanted the Hawaiian island of Lanai. It was suffering from a debilitating lack of rain, despite being often shrouded in mist.
Munro realised that a lone Norfolk pine outside his house was somehow condensing the mist, causing it to fall drip by precious drip onto his tin roof. If one tree could do this, he thought, imagine what a forest of them could do. And he was right. Planting thousands of Cook Island pines brought water back to the island and carved Monro’s initials into the trunk of history. This could be us. All we need are tents, some field kitchens, plenty of shovels, and the political will to begin the long march to a glorious forested future.
As they say, from tiny seedlings mighty oaks grow. Which might just mean you have planted the wrong tree.