The Takaka River

The Takaka River

for my class at Takaka Primary, 1978


1.       High in a valley that nobody knows

Where the wild ducks fly and the snow grass grows

From under the ice a brook breaks free

And the Takaka River goes down to the sea.

From under the shade of the melting snows

The icy riverlet forms and flows

Under the tussock and over the scree

Finding a path to the distant sea.


2.       Down through the valley she trickles and spills

Carving a cleft in the stony hills

But the valley ends at a rocky ledge

And the stream goes sparkling over the edge.

A thin white ribbon of waters go

Down to the boulders far below

Hung in the air like a rainbow veil

Crashing and splashing down like hail

And over the boulders and under the spray

The Takaka River makes its way


3.       Down to the river just at dawn

A lean red doe and a spotted fawn

Come out of the forest to drink their fill

And stand and listen, and all is still.

High in the branches overhead

A possum stirs as he goes to bed

Only the kea’s lonely cry

Echoes out of the morning sky.


4.       Under the shade of the ancient trees

The Takaka River takes her ease

Now green and quiet her waters glide

Where cliffs climb high on either side

And hurrying streamlets splash and fall

Where moss and fern make a shadowy wall.


5.       Now strong and swift in her stony bed

Below the snows where the streamlets fed

The river spreads on the valley floor

And tosses and foams with a gathering roar

Over the rapids wild and free

Racing down to the distant sea.


6.       Where the Flora Stream and the Takaka meet

In a sunlit space at the mountain’s feet

A track appears on the Flora’s flank

And a wire bridge from bank to bank;

A bridge that hangs in the empty air

And a hopeful hunter walks with care

Over the bridge and along the track

With a loaded gun and an empty pack.


7.       He pauses a moment under the trees

Looking, and liking what he sees.

He pauses a moment, then he is gone

And the Takaka River too runs on

With the trampers’ track on the right hand side

Foaming along in angry pride.


8.       In steep green valleys below the snow

The silent armies of beech trees grow.

Rimu and totara stand in line

Cedar and matai and tall white pine.


9.   A pigeon crosses the river fast

His wings shoof-shoof as he races past.

High on a branch he comes to rest

And bends his head on his downy breast.

He hears the hum of the working bees

He hears the wind in the towering trees

But he turns his head in swift alarm

When something shatters the forest’s calm.


10.  Over the river there comes the sound

Of heavy machines that shake the ground.

 Lumbering dozers grind and roar

Tearing a gap in the forest floor

Pushing and piling, ready to load

The lorries lumbering up the road.


11.  The river follows the dozers’ tracks

Passing a huddle of empty shacks

All that is left of a mining camp

Rotting away in the dirt and damp.


12.    The Takaka River races past

Filling the valley and running fast

Turning her back on lorries and loads

Laughing at houses and bridges and roads:

“They may build their houses under the trees

And scurry about like frightened fleas

But I am a river, proud and free

And men will never master me!”


13.   But curving around the edge of a ridge

The Takaka River comes to a bridge

And suddenly slows, in great surprise

And cannot believe her watery eyes

For there is a mighty concrete hall

Built to harness a rivers’ fall

And a captive river foams and roars

Out of a line of iron doors.


14.   The Takaka hears the waters sob:

“I am the river they call the Cobb.

Once I was happy and proud and free

Finding a path to the distant sea

But men have driven me underground

To spin their heavy turbines round.

I have lost my way to the distant sea.…”

The Takaka murmurs “Come with me”


15.    So the Cobb and the Takaka merge as one.

And strongly and swifty their waters run

With the winding road on the left hand side

Till the Takaka valley opens wide

With farms and fences thickly spread.

And a silvery ocean, right ahead.

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