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.