Tuesday Poem: Aramoana Border Post

Aramoana Border Post

“Dunedin, that’s a fact!”
said the smelter proponents.
It wasn’t and would never be.

Our border post was a fact:
a jaunty little hut
perched on the dirty haunches of the road.

“Welcome to the Independent State of Aramoana!”
We had passports, visa stamps, the lot.
We stood outside in white coats and flagged down passing cars,

asked them their purpose, invited their support,
a dollar here or there to save the saltmarsh, the houses
the sandbar and the incandescent dunes.

We were an enterprising bunch. We had sent letters
to Zurich, Paris, Auckland
promising trouble should the corporations ever get this far.

They never did. Market failure or a failure of nerve
kept them away. There would be other darkness
but the place itself remains,

lonely, unpolluted:
Bear Rock, the dunes, the saltmarsh.
The low and sand-choked pathways of the sea.

Poem credit: This poem is from my first collection, Boat People (Copies still available for $5, folks – email me!)

Tim says: In my early twenties, I was involved in the Save Aramoana Campaign, which successfully opposed the building of an aluminium smelter at Aramoana, at the entrance to Otago Harbour – a proposal strongly supported by Rob Muldoon and his National Party government. The declaration of the “Independent State of Aramoana” was a highly effective piece of PR for the campaign, and a lot of fun too.

Thirty years on, I don’t hear too many people saying they wish there was an aluminium smelter at Aramoana. But another National Party government with a similar penchant for Think Big projects is encouraging New Zealand and overseas companies to dig up and process 6 billion tonnes of Southland lignite, which would lead to massive greenhouse gas emissions – big on not just a New Zealand, but a world scale. Through the Coal Action Network, I’m opposed to that plan too. Some bad ideas never really go away.

You can read all the Tuesday Poems on the Tuesday Poem blog.