The Unseen

I sing praise to the Unseen
To the innumerable creatures of the aquifer

Who live in deep tunnels & vast caverns
Who swim in immeasurable flow

Who move in immense waters
Who work in invisible ways

& we know – Because water goes in brown
& flows out clear – That there is an intermediary –

A measureless host of the Unseen
Who ask nothing of us, except we keep our nitrate out

Because it threatens their simple working life
Of cleaning & cleansing the aquifer – & endangers

The crystalline gush of Te Waikoropupū
& hearts lifting, lifting, lifting with joy


The poem was inspired by the words of Andrew Yuill who, when asked if he had anything to say following the presentation of the Water Conservation Order, said, ‘I’d like to remember the Unseen.’ Andrew’s comment stopped us in our tracks. ‘The Unseen’ are the myriads of tiny creatures in the deep aquifer. No one has explored the depths of the Arthur Marble Aquifer, though cavers have seen stygofauna on the aquifer’s outskirts.

 Most people who visit Te Waikoropupū focus their attention on the beautiful clear waters flowing from the Springs. Andrews remark reminds us of the myriads of stygofauna working, moment by moment, to clean the aquifer.

 The Unseen ask nothing of us ‘except we keep our nitrate out. As a result of intensive dairy farming, nitrate levels are rising and the aquifer is at risk. If the stygofauna die, the crystalline waters of Te Waikoropupū will be lost forever.

 The poem is dedicated to Andrew Yuill who, along with Ngāti Tama, presented the Te Waikoropupū Water Conservation Order to the then Environment Minister Nick Smith.

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