Over the past ten weeks (with more to come in this and the new year)I have consumed an inordinate amount of fossil fuel gallivanting around the country doing my field work. When at home (besides trips to see friends and family in Auckland and Te Puke) I normally try to keep my vehicle use to a minimum. So you're probably wondering why I am the recidivist offender behind such emissions all of a sudden.
The truth is that it's not simply a cleverly orchestrated jaunt at the expense of the university and other funders; but bona-fide planning research. I go into council offices all around the country (almost 20 to date) and haul out files pertaining to development sites that have had mitigation requirements as part of their approved proposal.
Once I wade through the dusty piles of documents and photocopy what's needed (unless a hawklike admin person is appointed to reluctantly do it) providing it exists, I hop into my wagon. After digesting (reading, not eating) the files, I contact the landowner, outlining my research and (all going well) obtain permission to view the subject property.
Every now and then there are no contact details available. In this situation (particularly when its a subdivision) I would ordinarily drive to the site to see if there were identifying features that could lead me to a contact person (for sale sign etc). I employed this normally flawless technique not that long back. A coastal subdivision in the early stages of sales following the issue of title.
I knew roughly where it was and knew an extension of a road had been involved, the plan implying it would be vested with the council prior to 224C. So I tootled down it and arrived at a for sale sign as expected. I rang the number on it, and advised the lady on the other end who I was and asked for the real estate agent. She went seppo (not sure if you're familiar with that colloquialism, but it means she went berserk at me) screaming down the phone that I was trespassing and did I not notice the private road sign a kilometre back.
She ranted for a significant period of time. Heart thumping, I listened, the screeching clearly audible with the phone even on the passengers seat. When the noise ebbed I picked it up and shakily said I would leave the property immediately and ring her husband on his cellphone. A curt goodbye from her, and I threw the phone back, relieved that I could escape.
I turned the key and....nothing. Incredulous at my spate of bad luck crammed into the past twenty minutes, I tried the car a few more times. Turning the radio, fans, lights and anything else draining off and came up dead. Her sustained rant had sucked the juice from the battery from afar. Considering my options, I went to phone the AA for a jumpstart. Not only was I in the middle of nowhere, but I remembered I was over a kilometre into private property and doubted the jumper leads could lawfully reach...that was that plan down.
With no alternative I left a plaintive and apologetic message on the chaps voicemail explaining my predicament and that I hoped to here from him soon but until then I would be forced to trespass. Glaring at the engine and kicking the clumps of mud around it where it was parked (RIGHT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DRIVEWAY OF COURSE) passed the next few minuutes until I heard the roar of an engine (not my one, obviously). Startled, I looked up to see a late model Jeep Cherokee zoom over the hillside and head in my direction.
Fearing the owner had a temperament not dissimilar from his lady love I cautiously sat back in the car and watched him approach. Furtively rehearsing my explanation I clacked my nails on the dashboard hoping for an outcome that didnt see me drowned in the adjacent swamp. As the jeep neared his wide grin was suddenly a welcome sight and his guffaws of laughter pealed cheerily down the hillside.
He had listened to my (now gratingly embarrassing) message and driven straight here, quickly brushing off any concerns I had about my evil deeds of the day. A jumpstart following a farm tour set the day right and I sped off, too scared to kill the engine for the remainder of the trip.
So there you go, Mr Environment. I wanted you to know that its not all a ruse and for every lovely picture I have taken, every litre of petrol I have indirectly consumed, every cheerful council officer that has chatted to me over coffee, and every forest I have been lucky enough to saunter through; there has been elaborate screw ups like this deal with.
Council staff that look right through me, utterly uninterested in helping and not clearly capable of doing so anyway. Long days in the field trying to find poorly identified property owners in remote areas. Long evenings spent cajoling landowners into property tours, reading district and regional plan provisions, and tracking down documents, people, businesses and consultants. The hostel cohabitators and often bizarre owners have been an effort, with their complicated payment systems, appliances, diurnal and nocturnal patterns and squillions of warning signs (no noise after ten, no noise before eight, wash your hands, leave bags here, dont leave bags here, dry and put away, lock your car, dont kick the cat etc etc).
So there you go, I hope knowing that it hasnt all been plain sailing makes you smile and works off maybe a few jots of my carbon footprint. Thanks for indulging me in seeing my amazing country. I promise to make up the difference by planting trees, saving wildlife, making irksome submissions on RMA instruments for the rest of my days.
Anyways, I thought I would write this now, instead of before I started. As many consent holding landowners have taught me over the years, it is far better to beg forgiveness than permission.