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Last week, with half an hour out of officing, I thought I'd go kick some leaves along the track from Roy's Bay and play on the swings in Wanaka Station Park. It's just as well they don't have little age-limit symbols on the parks around here like they do in Paris, because who can resist a good swing?
A minute into the walk and just about to launch my first two-foot assault on the carpet of yellow, golden, umber, ochre, tallow, orange, scarlet and mustard, I spied a line of camera people. To be exact, I stopped and stood and gawked at the united nations of photographers until a guy tapped me on the shoulder. ``Excuse me? You're in the way. I'm here for a photo of the tree.''
That tree. That Wanaka Tree. That lovely shapely crack willow rising from the pure gleam of the picture-perfect waters of the calm and pristine surrounds. That ever-so-Instagram-able tree. That poor, limb-torn tree. Soon to be signposted in English and Mandarin and pictures to say ``Keep Off, No Climbing''. Some people are advocating for a fence around it, which is kind of ironic since it used to be a fence post before it was a thing of destination tourism.
I'm all about the trees. In fact, if I took one of those find-out-your-DNA tests I'd probably be at least 65% tree hugger. Though I have this suspicion that not all trees are treated equal. Nobody in a position of power is planning on ring-fencing the unhoused land left in Hawea and putting up a ``Keep Out Developers'' sign. I mean, that's life though, isn't it? Is it?
There are some trees some people want to hug more than others. But I don't love the whole thing whereby we (by which I mean not me, not the people, but the people who are the People) sell off, sell out or show off globally about our picturesque beauty and then, too late, try to slap a ring around it when other people want to come and see for themselves. Sort of like showing someone where the lolly jar/spirit shelf/diamond stash is and then putting a rudely worded lock on the lid.
As I drive around now, I'm amazed by all the commandments. No Fires. No Camping. Photo Stop Here. If you Instagram it they will come, and passive aggressive rhyming signage just isn't cutting it when it comes to the huge movements in the district. We're teetering, like the kids river dipping off the Albert Town bridge, except not half as confident or stylish and it's beauty and ruin at stake, not jump or hold.
I remember the first time I made that leap. A rush and a slap and a badge of belonging. If Instagram had been a thing back then and I'd been a thing uptaker, you bet I would have put it on my story. But just now I'm waiting for the day I drive across it and see a ``No Jumping'' sign.
Beauty and ruin. We all want in. And lest you think I'm complaining here, I count myself world class lucky that I still know and still go to places where I can kick up the leaves, have a quick as quick autumn dip, ogle the eels circling sunset around the wharf, be absolutely alone in the speckled lushness of the bush or run on a bit of beach. Like, while we're teetering here, let's revel. Celebrate. Everything. Outside. Now.
As to the long-term answer? We've got an opaque lake and not a crystal ball, so I don't know it. And after all, I'm not the people who are the People, I'm just a poet.