Toby Manhire 's Opinion

Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire: Hekia, Bill and the very nervous taniwha

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Hekia Parata. Photo / David White.
Hekia Parata. Photo / David White.

Dear editor, the School Journal.

Although the assurances are confusing and inconsistent, I am pleased to hear that the Journal will continue after the closure of Learning Media, its publisher for 75 years. In light of the announcement, please consider my submission. Regards, etc.

Once upon a time there was a taniwha. A big, friendly, giant taniwha. A very hungry taniwha, too!

For decades, the taniwha had entertained children across the land, spiriting them through native forests and across the seas. The taniwha loved to scurry about the place, to laugh, to subvert stereotypes, and from time to time to twerk for friends.

But the taniwha had of late grown weary, undernourished. Its regular breakfasts of seaweed and snapper had been disrupted by overeager recreational fishers. Its mood had grown gloomier, too, probably because of all the time being wasted playing Minecraft.

One bright sunny morning, however, a smile rippled across the taniwha's face like a crescent moon. Uncle Bill and Aunty Hekia, the taniwha's guardians, were pacing determinedly in the cave. They were carrying what looked like a picnic hamper, bulging, probably, with delicious kai moana.

"Hello Uncle Bill! Hello Aunty Hekia!" said the friendly taniwha.

"Hurray!" cheered the children, who were also in the cave.

"What have you got there, Aunty Hekia?" asked the taniwha, cheekily.

Aunty Hekia grinned like a lawyer at the America's Cup.

"Following extensive consultation with stakeholders and assessment of resource allocation, a decision has been taken to undertake a wind-down process going forward," she said.

The children could hardly contain their excitement. Whatever did she mean?

Aunty Hekia spoke again. "Predicated upon best-practice learnings, we will advance solutions centred on transitioning your acccomodational needs into co-located habitational contexts."

Uncle Bill looked up from his spreadsheet. But Aunty Hekia wasn't finished!

"We will work with you and all other beloved childhood narrative assets to provide transition pathways where possible to ensure your capabilities remain available in the sector," she said.

"Pathways!" shouted the children, unable to contain their excitement.

"Leap on, everyone!" said the friendly taniwha. And so the children clambered aboard its weathered back.

"Hurray!" they shouted. "To the pathways!"

The taniwha skipped out into the native forest. Uncle Bill and Aunty Hekia raced after them, a cloud of Treasury papers trailing in their wake.

Across the Snickery Swamp they travelled, heeding the taniwha's warning to steer clear of its fabled troll's lair.

"Take care!" the wise and happy taniwha said as they clambered back on to dry land. "Do not let your gaze linger on the swaggering three-headed rose - for it can induce a slumber of many years!"

Soon they arrived at a clearing. Aunty Hekia and Uncle Bill slumped to the ground, exhausted.

"Look, having inherited from the last Labour government an unstable terrain and network of taniwha dwellings, we hoped that progress could be made in adapting to the more competitive contracting environment, introduced to ensure the most cost effective provision of services across the sector," said Uncle Bill. "Though they have not adapted to this new environment, the happy taniwha will continue in some form. Right now, officials are conducting a feasibility study into the practicalities of repurposing it within the popular 2013 Budget app, available on all mobile platforms."

The happy taniwha and the children stared at Uncle Bill.

"Look," he said. "The Government is on track to return to surplus in 2014-15. Who's been eating my porridge?"

"I've been internalising a really complicated situation in my head," said the happy taniwha. "What will become of me? Tell me, Aunty Hekia, whatever does he mean?"

Aunty Hekia took a long breath and glared at her shoes like they had refused to tidy their room.

"Well, children. Exploratory contingencies have been undertaken to facilitate and maximise the minimisation of contingencies according to the textured permutations of the communities affected by reconfigured contexts going forward," she said.

"Hurray!" shouted the children, their eyes filled with terror.

The clouds above began to curl and contort. Some took the shape of the children of yesteryear, others the likeness of great New Zealand writers and artists, such as Margaret Mahy, Denis Glover, Colin McCahon and Rita Angus. It was really uncanny. The wind as it is whistled through the trees - kauri, totara, kahikatea, how many can you identify? - seemed to give them voice. It was as if they were saying, "What the hell do you think you're doing, you bloody lunatics?"

The happy taniwha was tired. It dropped the children off at the mall and headed back to its dank, familiar home. As the bulldozers hummed above, the taniwha curled into a ball, its head filled with doubt, and began another dream.

The End.

- NZ Herald

Toby Manhire

Toby Manhire is a Wellington-bred, Auckland-based journalist.

Toby Manhire is a Wellington bred, Auckland based journalist. He writes a weekly column for the NZ Herald, the NZ Listener's Internaut column, blogs for listener.co.nz, and contributes to the Guardian. From 2000 to 2010 he worked at the Guardian in London, and edited the 2012 book The Arab Spring: Rebellion, Revolution and a New World Order.

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