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One Tree Hill – a story

March 7, 2012

Kind of a random note, I suppose, but One Tree Hill is such an icon and the discussions around its ‘NO Tree Hill’ status have been ongoing, so:

Michael King, once again (I love his writing!) puts this story to the place:

“There is traditional evidence from both Tainui and Ngati Whatua that a totara stood on the summit of One Tree Hill in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries AD. By the time the Auckland isthmus was colonised by Europeans in the nineteenth century, the totara was gone and a pohutukawa stood in its place. That tree was cut down for firewood in 1852. In its place, John Logan Campbell planted another tree: a pohutukawa. He surrounded it with a ring of pines to protect it from the wind. Californian pines, Pinus radiata, not English ones. In the event, because of the exposed nature of the site, the pohutukawa and all but one of the pines died, leaving the summit of One Tree Hill with its second lone tree, a Californian pine. Far from being an attempt to erase a Maori emblem, the whole exercise had been designed – unsuccessfully as it turned out – to replace and renew that emblem.” (186)

He continues: “As to the monument, Campbell’s intention had been to honour tangata whenua. Like almost all Maori and Pakeha in the nineteenth century, he believed that the declining Maori population statistics indicated that Maori, as a people and as a culture, would soon disappear. Some Pakeha welcomed that outcome; others were indifferent; Campbell, however, mourned the prospect and wanted to salute Maori for the great people he believed they had been. And his successful determination to preserve the earthworks intact on Maungakiekie was part of his respectful salute to tangata whenua.” (186-187)

Ref: (italics in original) Michael King (2011) The Silence Beyond: Selected writings by Michael King: With an Introduction by Rachael King. Penguin Books: Auckland. 

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