Jolisa had the wood on them
What’s in a name?
Plenty when a campaign with a cast of thousands saves Auckland historic pohutukawa trees from death – with the case for their survival coming from Jolisa GRACEWOOD and other massed tree-lovers. Gracewood indeed. She had the wood on the ‘‘chopthem-down’’ vandals of transport planners who wanted just that to help them with their train system.
More than that, the latest battle – with planners wanting to butcher priceless trees at 820 Great North Rd – had precedents aplenty.
One tree in the then city bus terminal was sentenced to chainsaw death. I was in the Auckland Star editor’s chair that day and ordered an ‘‘ Oh no, you don’t!’’ editorial on page one.
I also contrived to have the typed story shaped like a tree. To be honest, in those hot metal and nondigital days, that tree looked like a tennis racquet.
But the image and the words had real impact.
Tree lovers rallied to the cause and the murder of the mature tree was scrapped.
If it still stands there all those decades later, it should be a permanent warning to bureaucratic planners that taking axes and chain saws to our history is not on.
History, that’s what’s involved, Jolisa Gracewood, the voice of Pohutukawa Savers, told Auckland Transport members with chapter and verse.
Her oratory prompted a unanimous change of plan – and saved the trees.
Coincidently, when Arbor Day was officially revived in New Zealand in 1933 after extensive lobbying by Mr N R W Thomas, the government suggested that local bodies mark the day with treeplanting ceremonies.
Mr Thomas was not just an ardent conservationist and preserver of green space. He was also a pohutukawa enthusiast.
He is believed responsible for the memorable avenue of pohutukawa in the Domain running from the duck pond to Stanley St.
The trees mark the route of a planned road. After concerted public objections (sounds familiar), the road was never built.
But Mr Thomas’ preemptive, justin-case beautification remains.
Pohutukawa avenues were a popular civic project in both islands during this period.
In 1930, the Auckland Star
had proposed just such a planting for the Great South Rd: ‘‘An avenue of pohutukawa in bloom would be a distinctive introduction to the city.’’
In June 1934, the superintendent of parks, T S Aldridge, wrote to the town clerk.
‘‘It is proposed to plant pohutukawa trees along the frontage of the area known as the golf links, Great North Rd . . . it would give jobs to the unemployed’’.
Dynamite blasted holes into the rock and allowed tree-planting. About 700 relief workers – unemployed men on the dole – spent 18 months cleaning up and improving a large area of rough volcanic land known as the Stone Jug reserve.
They planted five large pohutukawa at 820 Great North Rd in 1934 as a finishing touch to the construction of Chamberlain Park, transforming it from wasteland to a source of civic pride.
Trees were in. The then mayor, Mr G V Hutchinson, oversaw the planting and the trees grew.
The council in the 30s was particularly eager to plant native trees on its properties. In the previous three years, 7500 were planted in city parks and reserves.
The authorities wanted children to become interested in trees. There was a need to beautify the land. The mayor said it was ‘‘the duty of the community to care for trees’’. Both hopes flourished. Local resident Roimata Macgregor (Knight Ave, Mt Albert) traces the Great North Rd planting to the Great Depression, with a specific family connection: ‘‘My mother told me when we drove by the trees that my grandfather, Fred Johnston, was among the people who planted them.’’
I wonder what present Auckland project will prompt youngsters’ interest 20 years from now?
Maybe the ruins of what was once a casino! Want a bet on it?
Beloved pohutukawa: Residents’ battle to save our national icon has been ongoing for many years.