27 March 2019

King Country

Kirsty Gunn

When the news came in about the shootings in New Zealand on 15 March my first thought was: Taihape. Or Pahiatua. Or Bulls. One of those small, dark-shadowed towns that sit alone in the interior of the country, surrounded by hills dense with bush and acres of paddocky grass that gets scraped back to the bone of dry earth in the summer heat. It’s been a long summer, there, New Zealand friends have been telling me, high, high temperatures, and no break in the weather. And yes, I thought, straight away: I can see someone opening fire in one of those places. Having grown up in New Zealand, though a long time ago, and knowing a bit about those remote communities – with their corrugated-iron shopfronts and pub doors flung upon into the evening with the sounds of men’s voices like a raging tide inside in the darkness, the smell of DB and Tui beer and cigarettes, and the utes parked up waiting for them with farm gear baled on the back, a few dogs scrabbling on the trailer – well, I remember guns.