Sunday, August 12, 2012

Song of the Kauri

 The title of this movie references the musical instruments (guitars, ukeleles and violins) that Laurie Williams makes from kauri and other native timbers at his workshop in Northland. Laurie is only one of many interesting characters you meet in the film which discusses many things to do with kauri - the history, the uses, the politics, the stewardship and the economics. We meet enthusiasts, forestry experts, musicians, authors, millers and farmers. We witness a kauri tree being felled and we see historical footage of kauri felling and milling.

Laurie Williams and Kauri

I really loved Song of the Kauri but then I really love kauri trees. (Any kind of big tree, in fact. Part of me mourns for the great forests of New Zealand that were felled long before I was born. I know it would be less convenient getting to Johnsonville if there was still a rimu forest in the Ngauranga Gorge but it would be a whole lot more scenic). I can accept that big trees may not be your cup of tea, and making musical instruments is certainly a niche interest but the economics and practicalities of growing kauri rather than pine trees might be of more general interest to the average New Zealander. I found the discussion about looking after native forest ( particularly the large trees) really interesting, as was the discussion about growing oak trees in England and France. It seems the English chopped all their oak trees down with abandon whereas the French started rationing the felling of their trees six hundred years ago which means they still have oak forests and the supply of material for wine barrels is ensured. One of the people in the film suggested that the New Zealand Wine industry could try using kauri for wine barrels if we had a ready supply, and another suggested that marginal land on New Zealand dairy farms could be used to plant native trees for commercial purposes.

Song of the Kauri held my attention for its entirety which is always a good thing, and it provided plenty of interesting stuff to think about afterwards.

I shall leave you with some quotes relevant to the topic, some of which featured in the film

"The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second best time is now"  Chinese Proverb

"Someone's sitting in the shade today because someone planted a tree a long time ago" Warren Buffett

(which would seem to be a variant on a Greek Proverb - " A society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in" ).

"The destruction of the Kauri Forest will go down as one of the great crimes of the Anglo Saxon peoples" Sir David Hutchins.

"In the matter of forests, the Anglo Saxon  is the last man in the world that ought to be let alone" Sir John Cracroft Wilson

My rating 4/5,

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