The sea is glassy now as a sand barge is towed down the northern Kaipara, but in another hour, who knows? Shoals, narrow channels, merciless currents and sweeping winds demand constant vigilance from those who ply the waters of New Zealand's largest harbour. A century ago, the Kaipara was one of the country's major waterways—a bustling conduit through which the vast kauri forests of the lower north were siphoned from the land. With the passing of the forest, the area became something of a backwater, the domain of farmer and fisherman. Little has changed; the harbour remains mighty in strength, meek in status. I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable, Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier; Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce; Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable, Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder Of what men choose to forget.
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