Home fires

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Alexander Turnbull Library

In the early 1980s, officials were deliberately burning native forest on the West Coast—clearing the way for pine. Plenty of people saw sense in that: jobs for their kids, when the pine matured. Others were horrified. Presumably hoping to generate terrific images of the fires, the Buller Conservation Group announced a photography competition. Dana Bradley, then around 25, pricked his ears up. He wasn’t exactly a greenie, but processing massive old-man rimu at the Karamea Sawmill made him feel “like a right piece of shit”. He remembers the taste of the sap that sprayed his face; the sting in his eyes; the planks as wide as his wingspan.

There was a burnoff booked for a forest near Seddonville, a patch he knew well. “Police closed the road off,” he says. “They didn’t want us near it.” But Bradley snuck in along an overgrown mining road, shooting the smouldering frame on page 87.

Images from the competition were eventually gifted, apparently with few details attached, to the National Library; we’ve published some of them in our feature on page 84. We weren’t able to track down the photographers, who were not named. If you recognise an image, please get in touch.