The Kauri Tree - God of the Forests
To tree Loving New Zealanders, and there are thousands of us, Kauri means Northland, and vice versa.
These great forest emperors, in their pride, symbolise our land as it was before men came here; the ruthless exploitation of their timber by the white man warns us, members of a later generation, to protect our remaining natural treasure.
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The botanical name of the kauri is Agathis australis.
The Maori name for this particular specimen (Tane Mahuta) means "the god of the forest", and it stands in the Waipoua Forest Reserve; it is indeed one of the finest remaining giants of the kauri forests of Northland.
It is 43 ft. in girth, has a clean bole of 42 ft. to the first branch, and is estimated to contain 90,000 ft. of sawn timber.
The Waipoua Forest is close to the west coast of Northland, and is a reserve whose preservation is protected by law.
Spars of tall slender trees were sought by early ships visiting the shores of northern New Zealand and were among our first, if not our very first, exports.
Much good timber was wasted in the later days in the course of clearing land for agriculture.
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Some were used for such mundane purposes as fencing-posts, but much was used for building houses in various parts of the country, many of which still stand in splendid condition.
The timber is exceptionally fine in the grain, easily worked, and useful in cabinetmaking; but today, alas, it has a scarcity value.
The gum with which the soils of Northland were impregnated, was once a valuable item of trade-it was used in varnishes-and gum-digging once provided occupation for hundreds of settlers.
Especially Dalmatians and other immigrants from south-eastern Europe, many of whose descendants are now farming successfully in Northland.
The soils on which the forests thrived is not naturally very fertile, and land from which the gum had been extracted proved somewhat intractable; but soil conditions have been ameliorated with the aid of fertilisers and modern technology.
The natural habitat of the giant trees, was the area north of a line running approximately from Kawhia to Tauranga, but specimens for ornamental and other purposes can be grown successfully in almost any part of the North Island, and even further afield, where the climate is not too severe.
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