I am going to take you on a journey. Back to ‘once upon a time’ when Canterbury was green and full of promise.
Imagine a time when rivers ruled this land. Instead of roads there were creeks and streams – crossing back and forth across the plains in many meandering pathways. I can still hear the sound of water rushing and rippling past my feet. Cool, shaded water, stirring the air musty with vegetation. Cryptic fish darted in the shadows. Fat eels/tuna grew centuries old.
Instead of high rise buildings there were tall kahikatea, tōtara and mātai stretching up to the sky. Harakeke/flax gathered in large families, ribbonwood/manatu and lancewood/horoeka provided a green lushness. Sedges, tussocks and gossamer grass hung their shaggy heads over the water to provide shade and insects to the fish below.
Instead of the sounds of cars and buses, there were birds; parakeets/kākāriki chit-chattering, tūī chiming, kererū wooshing, and bittern/matuku stalking silently through the reeds. Imagine, because these sounds, smells and sights are nearly all gone. Only fragments remain – listen carefully and you may catch the occasional whoosh of a lonely kererū.
When people arrived they travelled up these rivers to find new places to live. They hunted the mighty moa and cleared the mighty trees to make space for their gardens and houses. They stripped the river banks bare and walled the water into channels. Many of the streams are now hidden in pipes under streets and shopping malls. But they are still there. Waiting. They remember me. And like me, they grow restless.
I am Riparian Forest. I am the buffer between land and river. I provide food and cover for wildlife. I shade the water to keep it cool in summer, and slow down the floods of winter. I hold the soil in place—without me, the river banks collapse and wash into the sea. I keep the river water clear and clean. I protect both land and river, and all that dwells here. I am the connection to keep both land and water safe.
Today I am little more than a ghost. Little is left of me but fragments and echoes. But you can still walk under mighty kahikatea at Riccarton Bush / Pūtaringamotu and imagine what it may have been like. In this urban forest, I can imagine a new future for Christchurch. One in which the forest and the people live together and protect one another. This is my dream. Can you see it, too?”
I am the restless forest.
Manaaki whenua, Manaaki tangata,
Care for the land, care for the people.
Visit: #TheRestlessForest – the garden is currently in Spark Park, Hereford Street (next to the Ibis Hotel).
Visit Riparian Forests and restoration projects.
Colour #TheRestlessForest – download the colouring illustration, take a photo then share via Instagram or Facebook, using the hashtag #TheRestlessForest.
Riparian – A forested or wooded area of land beside a body of water such as a river, stream, pond. The word “riparian” is derived from Latin ripa, meaning river bank
Cryptic – coloration or markings that camouflage an animal in its natural environment.