Atamai Village (www.atamai.org.nz )is revving up its working bee schedule. We have a large area of Commons - land we can all use and for which we're all responsible. Some of the land is covered in gorse. Gorse was imported in the 19th century by Scottish immigrants and has now overrun the country. At this time of year, any land not in use is covered with brilliant yellow flowers. To tourists it looks pretty, but kiwis tend to snarl at comments about its beauty. Many of them have had to clear it from land at some time or other in their lives. Gorse is dense and has long sharp thorns.
When a gorse-clearing working bee was set for Saturday morning, I went to a second hand shop and bought my first pair ever of denim jeans and a thick shirt. Leather gloves and gum boots completed the ensemble for me and the other 10 people in the group. We were equipped with saws and loppers (long-handled secateurs) and divided into those who would saw and lop and those who would drag and stack. We were working on very steep terrain.
What I expected would be an all-day job took the team two hours. With the gorse gone, a hillside of beautiful native grasses and trees was revealed. We then gathered around the picnic table in the communal garden area and shared good food and cups of tea.
What I still take delight in is that for most of us, I reckon, this added up to a really good time'. The work was difficult, we all got pricked; we were proud of what we'd done in a short time, and we delighted in working together. All that was missing was a gorse-clearing song - a gap we must fill soon.
The Commons is a concept we'll grow into. Once part of every village, in Europe Commons were gradually enclosed for use by wealthy landowners. To a degree it's what binds us together as a village - the need to maintain and make productive this land.