Tim Walker’s North West

Regarding airflow, it is to Mid Canterbury what pollution is to Beijing. It’s unpleasant, it’s omnipresent; it’s infuriating, it’s inimical; it’s downright bloody awful – springtime on New Zealand’s Canterbury Plains and gale-force nor’ west winds go together like sweaty scrotums and itchy arse cracks.

Some years aren’t so bad, some years this delightful breeze is felt only occasionally and seldom for prolonged periods; these are the years where everything living is not rendered a dehydrated, wizened shell of its former self but the other years, the spring of 2014 for example, this ubiquitous, this vicious, this pernicious air current…

At least once a week for over a month now the Canterbury Plains have had to endure winds of 120, 140, or even 160 kph, bringing down trees and subsequently power lines, tearing off shed roofs and blowing over earthquake-weakened structures, decimating garden crops and uprooting freshly planted vegetable saplings, browning off lawns and sucking the moisture out of everything in sight; usually bringing with it a wave of unnatural heat, further fraying irascible temperaments, causing chaos on the roads and in general, leaving in its path a veritable swathe of destruction – here’s an old saying that I just coined: Nothing is safe from a Mid Canterbury nor’ wester.

Beginning life as an otherwise typical wind current moving off the eastern shores of Australia, this dry north westerly breeze collects moisture as it makes its journey across the Tasman, meeting with the South Island’s West Coast and, more to the point, the ostensibly insurmountable mountain range now thwarting progress. In its current state, water laden and weighed down as it is, there is no way it can cross the South Island so what does it do? It dumps its thousands of kilometres worth of absorption on the people of the West Coast where, from its drier hence lighter stance, it ascends to the top of the Alps while releasing every last modicum of precipitation then careers down the other side reaching massive speeds along with equal quantities of heat and desire to irritate.

This famed air current then reaches the hapless souls of Mid Canterbury as an uncomfortably warm, bone-dry, hay-fever-inducing, temper-flaring, gale-force, property-destructing, infuriatingly insolent, invariably irreverent, piece of shit, good-for-nothing-except-drying-washing, wind.

Aside from the ability to dry a pair of jeans before midday, there is a truly beneficial aspect to our nor’ west wind: the enormous volume of water it drops on the Southern Alps replenishes rivers while maintaining Canterbury’s water table, setting up us rural folk for a long and scorching summer of irrigation.

There’s always a plus side.



Article by Tim Walker

Edited by Wynn D Planes

Photography by Dee Struck-Shinn


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