The Speculator’s arrival in Waihi Beach this week coincided nicely with the unexpected appearance of several tons of Fonterra’s best milk powder and several hundred tons of Fletcher’s best export timber, courtesy of the idiots on the bridge of the Rena.
Clearly flustered by the excitement, several million Bluebottle jellyfish also beached themselves along Waihi’s fair shores, mixing with the detritus from the Rena in a cocktail that was described by the Speculassy as “icky”.
The Speculator thus found himself braving the chest-crushing easterly swell with other members of the public at Bowentown (near Waihi) in an attempt to secure said detritus above the high tide mark. Given the force of the swell, the high tide mark now existed among the dunes, requiring your hero to stumble up the dunes bearing bags of powdered milk over his puny shoulders, while being delicately coated in a mixture of sea water, dissolved milk powder and the occasional clot of diesel oil – and simultaneously enjoying the squelching sensation of Bluebottle innids and their accompanying toxins oozing between the toes.
As if this wasn’t enough, many of the containers had been lined with polystyrene, which had blown into tiny fragments and come ashore in enormous stretches along the beach.
These fragments developed an instant liking for anything coated in milk powder. Consequently, many of the volunteers (including the indomitable Speculator) began to evolve a novel version of the tarred and feathered tradition of the American south.
Which we can laugh about now, but at the time seemed a far cry from the normal vacational activities one expects to enjoy when at the beach on one’s summer holidays.
The Speculator was therefore non-plussed to read in the national press the normal nonsense about “reported thefts” “rubber neckers” and “the authorities having things under control.”
It was extraordinary to watch the number of people who instinctively attempted to alleviate the situation by removing as much of the detritus from the sea as possible, including the somewhat soul-destroying task of collecting the polystyrene fragments that blew with a carefree arrogance around the beach.
I think the odd bag of milk powder (that would surely be eventually destroyed) as a reward for the efforts of those who assisted would be the least the authorities, the insurers and their idiot clients could provide to those whose holiday was ruined by the sudden arrival of such a huge amount of unwanted detritus.
While the clean-up operation was conducted efficiently at Waihi Beach, there was no sign of any organisation of effort at the Bowentown end, where three containers regurgitated their caseine contents into the sea. Oil-soaked crates, hundreds if not thousands of pieces of timber and millions of polystyrene fragments also joined the fray, and for a while the volunteers were not deterred. Polystyrene was bagged, the milk bags were secured and where possible, so was the timber.
However, as it became apparent the tide was turning and the authorities were clearly not intending on collecting any of the material before it was too late, spirits sank and people, who had hitherto fought through the waves to drag flotsam and jetsam from the sea, walked downhearted past milk bags lying on the beach that they knew would not be collected. Sure enough, a number of containers were washed back out to sea, and an entire container load of milk powder followed suit.
So next time you read stories in the sensation-obsessed national press about how the public turn into looters and thieves at the first sign of an opportunity to nick something, or that if only all those rubberneckers would get out of the way so the important and competent authorities could get on with executing their well-designed plan, spare a thought for the those who spent the first sunny day of their holiday on the beach, tarred and feathered and dodging Bluebottles, as the authorities on the ground dashed sternly about while talking importantly into their walkie-talkies.