postcard from aotearoa

early morning on Dinsdale road – the orange street lights peer thru the cracks in the venetians and bypass the mustard curtains reaching my eyelids. I wake and it is quiet…. briefly … I cannot see the clock face to know the time but no whistles clicks or gurgles of the starlings – must be pre dawn then.

I have the window open as far as it can go which is about 6 inches -this offers me a little fresh damp Waikato air but also carries the noise of busy road traffic loud and strong.

I don’t know what it is but Mum and Dad have always lived on a main road – so convenient Dad says, handy to everything.

my sister lives around the corner in a quiet cul de sac and I am thinking of going and having a sleep over at her place but just for this moment my waking world is soft and silent .

I am in Hamilton New Zealand’s fourth largest city and one of the fastest growing – something like 150,000 people hereabouts. It is the main city of a region known as the Waikato about half a million people strong  and famous for its prime agricultural land.

Wai – water

kato- the pull of the river current into the sea

or flowing water and that is what New Zealand’s longest river the Waikato does for 425 kms . Along the way it supports 8 hydro dams and 19 native species of fish as well as a few ring ins. At least half of this number is endangered and all species are threatened surviving in small declining breeding populations.

Once there was black flounder ( patiki), mullet,members of the bully family (pako), shrimps ( kouraura) and crayfish( koura) lamprey, torrentfish, mudfish .

the river rises out of Lake Taupo and the quality begins well with clarity and effervescence but as it moves along halting in the hydro dams, picking up farm chemicals and sewage, stormwaters the quality slides downhill dramatically. Here as it passes the main street of Hamilton flowing thru the suburbs and under a multitude of bridges it has become a deep sullen turgid darkness with little vitality left to recommend it to fishes or humans.

despite its dark stolid appearance and questionable additives it holds a majestic energy and is sacred to the Maori culture   –   every bend of the river is guarded by a taniwha ( mythical water spirit )and has been recognised in law as an important taonga (treasure ) to the Tainui tribe. They say the spirits of the ancestors mingle in these waters and that the Waikato is the land is the people is the river – there  is no separation.

I admit to a certain fascination with this treasure and any excuse to get out of Dinsdale and cross the river or amble along its banks is fine with me. Along the way I look for sightings of the kaka (parrot) the kereru (pigeon) the korimako (bellbird) and the tui (parson bird and honeyeater). The council has asked to be notified if we see any of these four – because they are ‘key distributors and pollinators of native plants.’ Some of them have been reintroduced and an effort is being made to rehonour the wetlands of this region. I am hopeful but have nothing to report yet except for blackbirds starlings mynahs and thrushes . I wish my birdy mates were here with their binocs and then we might find a bit of action in the skies.

The bellbird is terrific on the dawn chorus apparently and I am a big fan of early morning chorale singing. The tui is also a sweet singer and as a child I liked to stop at Mrs Wells place next door and watch the tui supping from the yellow kowhai flowers.

Dad has put up a starling nesting box next to his bean fence in the front yard . he is good at building things Dad –so far they haven’t taken up the offer but it is there waiting for them. Originally introduced into NZ for insect control they are a noisy bird appearing black  but  in closer reveals iridescent purple and green feathers tipped with white spots. This songbird is very common and a great imitator of birds police sirens and telephones. Their diet ranges –  caterpillars spiders grains nectar and fruit – a sort of whatever is on offer I’ll grab it diet.

Dad tells me that they love pulling letters out of mailboxes which is why he had a steel one made.

I am also keeping an eagle eye out for any hedgehogs -those tiny little prickly folk that were introduced here from England. I can remember putting out saucers of milk for them when we were kids and them wandering around our garden. Sometimes you could ever so gently pick them up ouchy ouchy pricking yourself along the way -them curled up tight  and hold them in the palm of your hand. a little nose then face would peep out and tiny eyes blinking .

Bumblebees are another treasure here that we don’t see at home in Oz – some 5 or 6 species here – they are bzzzing around my sisters garden but here unfortunately Dad ripped out the garden after Mum died. too much work he said much neater now . Lucky Mum isn’t around to see it we say to Dad.

it is late at night now and traffic still hurries along sometimes rattling the windows , a dog barks and peoples voices drift in as they walk the streets.  no night birds in this suburb just the rumble of the fridge  and the click tock of the clocks.

6 thoughts on “postcard from aotearoa

  1. I hope you see some of those pollinators soon and hedgehogs too. My kids and I repeat a phrase over and over, when trying to emphasize that an idea we’re discussing is a better way to live: “That’s how the Native-Americans did it.” For example, “Living in small communities where everyone raises the kids together makes more sense. That’s how the Native-Americans did it.” Like the Maori, they also understood that we humans are not separate from nature, but a part of it.


    1. it is a good mantra – and your first nations peoples like many around the world have a wealth of sense that we could / can learn from.
      and the only hedgehogs I saw on this trip ‘home’ were roadkill – boohoo ….but my sister told me she had one in her garden one evening that I just missed seeing …

      Liked by 1 person

    1. indeed very beautiful and very quirky is the kiwi spirit – the great thing that enlivens it all is the force and nature of the maori people that have refused to disappear but instead demand respect and a listening to.


  2. Debra

    Wow. I feel like I was transported to another time and place. “The Waikato is the land is the people is the river – there is no separation.” This just sounds so sane.


    1. the sanity seems to come from our first nations people – the colonial mindset invaded with its own brand of madness that we still suffer from – let us hope a little sanity starts rubbing off ..


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