"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.
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.