Tawa, the place and the tree
If you’ve ever wanted to know about Tawa - the tree or the suburb - Gil Roper is your man.
Nearly 50 years after the botanist finished a thesis on the native tree, he is about to publish ‘‘a much more readable’’ book about all things Tawa.
From uses of the wood, to how the suburb got its name, to the recent arrival of a long-absent native bird, the book covers it all and took nearly two years to write.
‘‘It was a labour of love but it was also a labour of fun.’’
Roper has always loved nature - as a 7-year-old he won an award for his botanic enthusiasm - and studied botany and zoology at Victoria University, where he produced a research thesis on the tawa tree.
‘‘It really was quite a weighty tome, far too technical for anyone to read.’’
It was probably no surprise then, that decades later and living in the Wellington suburb, he turned his pen toward writing about the history of the suburb, named for the trees.
‘‘People might be surprised to know Tawa has some of the biggest trees in the country. Some are 200-300 years old, they’re the remnants of the original bush in the area.’’
The state of the bush surround- ing the suburb features prominently in Roper’s book and, while it’s home to family friendly walking trails these days, it wasn’t always so safe.
The books recounts how in 1850 a young settler was sent to find one of the cattle his family grazed in the bush, Roper said.
‘‘He was never seen again. He got lost and 18 years later they found his skeleton in Lower Hutt. That’s how dense the bush was.’’
The effects of human settlement on the bush are detailed, from the destruction wrought by settlers to the modern-day efforts to preserve and replant the bush.
It’s the return of the birdlife to the area that excites the botanist the most. Just three weeks ago a pair of kaka were spotted in a Tawa reserve.
Roper’s book included research that showed at least six bird species had returned in the past five years. ‘‘That makes all the hard work worthwhile.’’
Tawa the Tree, the Community and its Reserves, will be published through the Tawa Historical Society and can be bought through the Historical Society, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Botanist Gil Roper has written a book about Tawa, the suburb, and tawa the tree.