WE. He Never says WE.

24 March 2022

A Journey to Sustainability with Planet Spratt

“If a thousand years were to pass in a second what would be left of us?”

The Dig – Movie

I read somewhere that the best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The next best time is today. Autumn is coming and with the rains will come the opportunity to begin planting out the stream on my property that is so in need of a kind and considerate lover. 

It is only five weeks but my efforts to bring my stream back to life have been an inspiration. Not in a, “Gee Dave, you are a great green guy,” kind of way, but with the people I have already met and talked to along the way.


Jim used to live on my land along with all the land around it. He wasn’t an easy conversationalist, preferring his own company unless it was down at the golf club over a few beers. He was, though, inspiring when we moved out from town eleven years ago.

Inspiring because he always helped but never interfered. Inspiring because he seemed capable of turning his hand to any task. 

Most of all he was inspiring because he planted, one by one, the trees, bushes and shrubs that became the beautiful wetland and arboretum (a botanical garden dedicated to trees)  that borders my place. My stream, when it’s not bone dry, flows into the wetland on Jim’s arboretum. From there it flows down and on to the Manukau Harbour. 

Eels, conversely make their way back up from some mysterious place in the Pacific, into the Manukau and eventually find a safe place in amongst the wetland reeds. If I succeed in making it a safer place, they will continue their journey up my stream as they have done in the past. 

Each morning I have my tea and toast on the front deck and look across and up at the established kahikateas and ancient totara that inspired him to protect by surrounding them with plantings from a nursery that was closing down and saplings from surrounding farms. 

All I see is how many different colours of green there are. All I hear are the hundreds of birds he protected by sustained pest control programmes. 

One time the neighbour clear felled a patch of trees on the land nearby. Possums, destroyers of forests and bush and predators to nesting birdlife, fled across to my place and into Jim’s arboretum. We silently went into competition, killing sixty of them in a two week period. Maybe the neighbour did us a favour – he never controlled pests on his land. Possums have never been a major problem since.

“We sure sorted them,” Jim said over a beer one evening.

‘WE’. Jim never said ‘we’. He was far too stoic to say that.

Jim left without really saying goodbye last year. He never liked a fuss. He sold the property and arboretum to Gary. Rumour has it that developers were eyeing up the land and that Jim rejected their offers despite pressure from the agent.  


Gary had been looking for a spot to build a place for a while. He went over Karaka way and all he saw was bare blocks. “By the time I planted it out and the trees grew I’d be dead.”

He had a look at the arboretum and the land behind it that he could build on . He fell in love and made an offer which Jim rejected as ‘too low.’ 

“How much?” 

“Ask the agent.”

“Too much,” said the agent who didn’t know the value of trees except as firewood.

“How much?” asked Gary.

The agent told him and Gary said yes. It was cheaper than the bare blocks in Karaka and he liked the view.

I spoke to Gary about the stream and my plans for it the other day. He lit up and offered me cuttings from the giant flaxes in the wetland.

“I’ll give you a hand planting them if you like. We can have a beer on the porch after and share the view.” ‘WE’. He said we. He never says ‘we’ except to his mates.


Ken is a horticulturist, gardener and all round ball of muscle and energy that makes this skinny old guy feel more than a little inadequate when he arrives with his chainsaw, weed wacker and hedge trimmer and smashes through work in a day that would take me a week if my back held out.

We have known each other for a while now and when I showed him my stream project I wasn’t sure if he would be as overawed by the enormity of the task as I am prone to be. He was engaged – no excited about the plan. I felt energised just being around him.

“We could clear five metres back from the stream to make it a bit easier to sort out the planting and fencing plan,” he offered after a bit of thought. 

WE. He never says ‘we’ – he is too polite to say that. 

A day later the stream bank was cleared, the old man’s beard cut back with the contempt this native forest smothering vine deserves and all the existing native shrubs were upright and free of weeds. Ken was on fire and so was I.


Samuel minds my sheep for me. These days there are only six older ewes, all a bit fat from over feeding, beautiful and a bit posh. They are the product of a breeding programme that ended when I tired of lambs bleating all day and night because they were separated from their mum by a seven-strand fence and a wide-open gate. 

Samuel treats them with a gentle hand. He even whispers to them– mimicking their low bleating and soothing them when he and his dogs work with them. I’ve never seen them cut, not even a nick, when he shears them. That is more than I can say for the ‘expert’ shearer I hired a decade ago whose heavy-handed brutality saw me shoo him off my property. 

“Bloody townie,” he called back, not amused that I had held him responsible for the blood stains on my shell shocked animals. He didn’t hear my reply as he left – neither will you see it in print. I am far too polite for that.

Samuel is also a fencer in the off season. We walked the stream and I shared my hippy vision of plants, fish, frogs and eels. “We can fence off this spring,” he said. “The frogs and fish can breed in there away from the kingfishers. Set a couple of rat and stoat traps and it’ll be ideal.” ‘WE’. He never says ‘we’ – he’s far too shy and solitary for that

Please feel free to contact me, Planet Spratt, at [email protected] if you have any feedback, ideas or suggestions

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