I spent today visiting new friends in the town of Granity, a beautiful 25km drive north of Westport. Something caught my eye again and again along the main street (there are only 3 streets here) . I counted at least 10 microwave-ovens loving upcycled into weatherproof mailboxes. I asked a few of the locals where the trend had come from, but no one seemed to know. If you know part (or all) of the story then do post in the comments below. Also has anyone heard of other towns with the same quirky trend?
So what is the motivation behind this particular upcycling phenomenon. Here goes with some thoughts from me:-
(1) Microwave ovens are big. Plenty of room for plenty of mail.
(2) Microwave ovens are weatherproof (I think). And it rains a lot in Granity.
(3) Microwave ovens serve no other useful purpose once they stop being able to reheat food. And dumping fees are pretty expensive in the Buller District.
I'm yet to find one of these microwaves which is plugged into the mains. But if I were a Postie on a cold winter's day in Granity, then I would definitely be reaching for my pot noodle.
"Why is there so much driftwood here?" This was a question asked me by a German freedom camper on Westport's North Beach. And as you can see from my photo, the place is pretty well strewn with driftwood. Great fun for my kids building sculptures, shelters, pretend fires or whatever else their imagination dreams up. But why is there so much driftwood here and on other West Coast beaches? Here's my stab at an answer to that question;
(1) The West Coast is densely forested. Driftwood starts life as real live wood, and there are plenty of trees in this corner of the world.
(2) West Coast valleys are steep sided. If a tree falls over, is struck by lightning, or is part of a landslide, there is a good chance it will end up rolling a long way into a stream or river.
(3) West Coast rivers pack some punch. The Buller river has an annual mean flow of 429 cubic metres per second and boasts the highest flood flow of any New Zealand river which is over 14,000 cubic metres per second. So the Buller and other West Coast rivers have no problem transporting large branches and tree trunks downstream.
(4) West Coast waves are big. The prevailing northwesterly winds and frequent storms mean that if logs find their way out to sea, then chances are they'll find their way back onto land pretty quickly. And that means washing up on a beach!
(5) West Coast people are rugged. They find a pristine sandy beaches pretty boring. In fact they love sharing the beach with the driftwood and like my kids, building stuff out of it. Driftwood can make a pretty good source of firewood too.
Yesterday I joined in the Westport Waitangi Day celebrations at the NBS Theatre. It was great to be given a warm welcome, to hear from the Maori organisations within our community and the movie "Hunt for the Wilderpeople" was a great choice to end the family-friendly celebrations.
We were all asked the question "What does Waitangi Day mean to you?" One person bravely stood up to share her answer to that question - and won a whanau-ora T-shirt for doing so. I wasn't that brave, but with a bit of time to think, I've had a stab at answering that question here on this blog.
My wife and I visited the Waitangi Treaty Grounds on our honeymoon 15 years ago... and it was infamously the scene of our first marital argument (we did get to cuddle and make up later!). But it wasn't until I moved to New Zealand from the UK in 2009, that I got to appreciate some of the history and the politics behind Waitangi Day.
I think for me Waitangi Day is a day of hope, whilst also being a day to recognise that there have been many injustices committed against the spirit of te Tiriti in the last 180 years. It is worth celebrating that within the generation of the first Europeans settling in New Zealand, a bicultural treaty was drawn up and signed. I know there have been differing interpretations of what the treaty stood for and how it was interpreted. But to my mind a treaty by its very nature recognises 2 equal partners.
I am also encouraged by the role that another Anglican priest, CMS Missionary, Henry Williams played in translating the text of the treaty into te reo Maori. The title "missionary" for some conjours up images of thoughtless colonialists unwilling to listen to the local culture. But in the case of the early missionaries to Aotearoa New Zealand, this couldn't be further from the truth. Williams and others spent time to get to know local culture and customs. They were the first people to write down the Maori language. And their motivation in translating and supporting the treaty was to protect Maori from the unthinking colonialists they are sometimes mistaken for.
How should we celebrate Waitangi Day? Well in Kawatiri Westport, I was glad to be able to join with both Pakeha and Maori in an event that was fun, informative, and built community for all ages and ethnic backgrounds.
NZ Maori identify themselves by their local mountain and river, but I grew up in the south of England where the land is flat, and our local river - the Blackwater - lived up to its name as being one of the most polluted streams in the UK. So now I'm claiming the Buller River, or in te reo Maori the Kawatiri, as my own.