Karamea Walking Tree, finalist for Tree of the Year NZ

06 May 2024
New Zealand Arboricultural Association
This week sees the launch of Tree of the Year NZ 2024. The competition invites New Zealanders to select their favourite from a shortlist of six much loved trees spread across the country.

Tree of the Year is an interactive celebration of the special trees that are part of our lives and communities.

Lead by NZ Arb (New Zealand Arboricultural Association) the competition is supported by Delta Utility Services, NZ Notable Trees Trust, Heritage New Zealand Pouhere Taonga, and Kiwi Conservation Club. Tree of the Year (TOTY) NZ is about the stories and heritage that connect us to our trees. Inspired by the ‘European tree of the year’ which has been running since 2011, this competition is about telling our cultural tree stories.

Last month, the public were invited to nominate a tree they consider special. Not a whole species …just one very special tree. In addition, they were asked to tell its story and share the reasons they think their tree should be Tree of the Year.

TOTY Chairman, Brad Cadwallader, says that community participation is the key to growing the understanding of the important role that trees have in our lives. This competition is a celebration of our living legends.

“We want people to tell us why these trees are important to them and to show us that they are the guardians of the next Tree of the Year”.

With its twin trunks stretched as if they are mid-stride – and wearing high heels! – over on the West Coast, near the Karamea Cemetery, is The Walking Tree. With an appearance like one of Tolkien’s sentient, tree-like Ents, it’s easy to see how The Walking Tree got its name. This characterful tree is a northern rātā (Metrosideros robusta), one of Aotearoa New Zealand’s tallest flowering trees. Northern rātā can live for up to 1,000 years, so who knows how long this windswept walker has been strutting its stuff just north of Karamea.

Pete Curry a Karamea local says his family cleared the land after arriving in Karamea in 1875 but left the walking tree.

“The land was dense bush and my great grandfather and his brothers cleared it for farming,” he said.

“They must have thought the tree was unique because they didn't leave anything else. They slashed and burned everything in those days.”

Karamea man Ray Douglas said the tree had become an icon and tourist attraction with many stopping to have their photo taken with it.

“It’s been there as long as anybody can remember. I have friends who remember playing there in the ‘40s and it was a fully grown mature tree then.”

He said another similar tree was blown over by high winds and he feared the walking tree could be toppled next.

“The roots of those trees are not terribly strong and the way its trunk is split is pretty rare.”

But now the Walking Tree stands tall as it strides towards Tree Of The Year

Development West Coast Chief Executive, Heath Milne, said In a region where around 84% of the land is within the conservation estate, the West Coast is jam packed with some pretty amazing trees.

"But one tree stands a branch above the rest — Karamea’s Walking Tree. We encourage everyone to get out and vote, or better still visit Karamea and see it strut its stuff in person.”

Voting is open until 31 May at www.treeoftheyear.co.nz with the winning tree announced 5 June (NZ Arbor Day).

Insta Gareth.r.andrews june 2 2023

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