Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Bush

From the time I was a small child I have spent a lot of time both working and just being in native forest. Now when I walk into the forest it is though I wrap a warm blanket around my shoulders. The sights and smells are so familiar as are the calls of the birds. Whether it be a solid rimu or a spindly kamahi every tree plays a unique role creating a vertical column of life over the mossy forest floor. You can sort of visualize the forest as a living cloak over the landscape.

One great advantage of New Zealands forests is that you can sit or lie on the forest floor without being attacked by unfriendly little critters. The exception is of course the mozzies but they only appear after dark. There are no other hidden dangers such a snakes, spiders, leeches etc. The worst that can happen is getting yourself lost and having to spend the night out.

On occassions I have been caught out after some higher being turned out the lights, as they do early in the bush. Then you are in for a long night sitting and trying to keep warm as the hours slowly tick by. You go through a process of deduction - yes I'm still in the South Island, between this and that river, probably so many kms from the road end. GPS has reduced the uncertainty but people will still get lost.

Our forests vary greatly in openness. The densest places are the coastal forests of the Kaimais and Westland where travel is limited to less than one kilometer per hour. There are masses of kiekie, supplejack and Gahnia grass to severely try your patience. At the other extreme are the beech forests which are pleasantly open for travel.

Once the Forest Service had responsibility for most of our forests and it took it upon itself to count and measure all the variants of forest as the most important function of management. Then came DOC and now threatened species are the go. Birds such as Kiwi and Kakapo take an inordinate amount of resources while nobody worries about the trees.

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