A Northland leader believes organizers of the inaugural Rākau o te Tau/Tree of the Year Aotearoa are barking up the wrong tree by not including Tāne Mahuta – the Lord of the Forest – on the shortlist.
Votes are now open for the competition, which aims to celebrate special trees that are part of New Zealanders’ lives.
To kick off the competition, six nominations were shortlisted this year: The 200-year-old Kerikeri pear tree; the Kilbryde pōhutukawa in Auckland’s Dove-Myer Robinson Park; Tainui’s sacred pōhutukawa, Tangi-Te-Korowhiti, in Kāwhia; Whanganui’s large northern rātā, Rātānui; Nelson’s Songer Tree which was infamously planted twice; and Seacliff’s magnolia tree, brought to light by its most famous patient, Janet Frame.
One tree which did make the cut is the Kerikeri pear tree – the oldest surviving exotic tree in New Zealand, planted by Rev John Butler around 1819. (File photo)
But the competition does not include one of the country’s most popular trees, which is considered by Māori to be the Lord of the Forest, Tāne Mahuta – the largest living kauri, believed to be about 2000 years old.
* Long-tailed bat named winner of Bird of the Year 2021
* Northland Rugby squad promote boot cleaning to stop kauri dieback disease spreading
* Lord of the forest: New Zealand’s most sacred tree is under threat
* Iwi confirms iconic kauri Tāne Mahuta in grave danger
Tāne Mahuta in Waipoua Forest is the key tree of New Zealand and is a no-brainer to be on the list, said Kaipara mayor Dr Jason Smith.
Tāne Mahuta, in Northland’s Waipoua Forest, is one of New Zealand’s most iconic and most visited trees. (File photo)
“There’s a great irony about this tree promotion story not including the greatest tree in New Zealand – it is an absolute living treasure that was around when Jesus was a boy.
“This tree can tell us about climate change and the future, and what comes and goes, and all the humanity of the world – it’s immeasurable for all of New Zealand.”
Smith said kauri like Tāne Mahuta need to be promoted because of the threat of kauri dieback, which can kill infected trees and has no known cure.
A giant pōhutukawa tree at Auckland’s Dove-Myer Robinson Park is one of the nominations. The park has hit headlines in recent years due to a controversial National Erebus Memorial, which has attracted protest and an occupation.
“Everything needs to be put at making people aware of why kauri are special. Kauri dieback is the biggest threat to the trees since the logging industry 100 years ago.”
Smith’s Kaipara district includes part of Waipoua Forest, but not the part containing Tāne Mahuta.
However, he said the importance of the forest has been recognized with a $1.8 million grant from the then-Provincial Growth Fund to seal Waipoua River Rd, to give better visitor access to the bush.
Kāwhia’s historically important Tangi-te-korowhiti pōhutukawa tree, which the Tainui waka was tied to when the first settlers made landfall, is in the running for the inaugural Tree of the Year title. (File photo)
The road will be opened with great ceremony on Friday.
Tree of the Year Aotearoa founder Rimu Tane said the competition celebrates trees that are part of Kiwi’s everyday lives – not necessarily the biggest, oldest, most famous or most beautiful.
The inaugural nominations were chosen with the help of New Zealand Notable Trees Trust, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, New Zealand Arboricultural Association, Delta Tree Services and Kiwi Conservation Club.
The Songer Tree at Britannia Heights, Nelson, has been nominated, in part for its quirky history which involves being planted twice.
Public nominations will be invited in future years, Rimu Tane said.
“We hope this will generate some heathy tree conversations around New Zealand and get people thinking about what trees they’d like to see in the campaign in future years.”
Snow Tane, general manager of Te Roroa Commercial Development Company – the iwi organization which cares for Waipoua Forest, diplomatically suggested the competition could bring light to lesser-known trees.
Te Roroa’s Snow Tane said perhaps the Tree of the Year competition could bring light to lesser-known trees, with 100,000 people already visiting Tāne Mahuta each year. (File photo)
“Tāne Mahuta is an iconic national and international taonga [treasure] with well over 100,000 visitors each year.
“There are a number of other well-known big kauri in Waipoua, including Te Matua Ngahere, Yakas Kauri, McGregor Kauri and Cockanye Tree.
“My observation is that the Tree of the Year allows for the lesser known trees to come to the fore,” he said.
The Tree of the Year competition could end up being as heated as Forest and Bird’s Bird of the Year, which gets feathers flying with hacked votes, postponed elections and rule-bending.
Last year’s title was taken by the first non-bird: the long-tailed bat.
Votes for Tree of the Year close May 31, with the winner announced on Arbor Day, June 5.