Trees are tops

As Ki­wis we don’t mind a bit of hard work. And we love camp­ing. Why not have a work camp?

Element - - Gardening - TE RADAR RADAR’S RANT

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.

Plant­ing trees: wear at least one gum­boot.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.