Chips flying as chainsaw seller tries to rev up interest on US auction site

By Martha McKenzie-Minifie

He's been called a "tosser", and public outrage led to his online auction being pulled, but Maori activist Mike Smith is still intent on selling the chainsaw he used to attack the One Tree Hill pine tree in 1994.

Mr Smith listed the chainsaw on the American website ebay after a local site, Trade Me, pulled the auction on Saturday.

Mr Smith also hit back at Trade Me for cancelling the auction by posting a new entry to sell about 200 responses - ranging from the angry to the adoring - he received while it was running.

Trade Me pulled the sale after 82 per cent of members polled voted against its continuing.

The sale opened last week at $5000, attracted a top bid of $10,000 and was viewed about 20,000 times.

Mr Smith was "disappointed" the auction was pulled and said the action was at odds with the website's earlier stance, which allowed the $20,000 sale of former policeman Ross Meurant's aluminium baton from the 1981 Springbok tour.

"I thought it was a bit gutless of them really," said Mr Smith. "I thought they succumbed to a fairly minimum amount of pressure."

Mr Smith's reason for attacking the Monterey pine was that he believed it to be a symbol of colonial oppression. The 125-year-old tree remained standing for several years but was too damaged to survive and was felled by the Auckland City Council in 2000.

Mr Smith borrowed the chainsaw from a friend, who is selling it to raise funds for a conservation project in Northland.

The ebay auction - announced as "the return of the dreaded chainsaw" and promising a certificate of authentification - had a starting bid of US$5000 and will end on January 30. Proceeds of the "hate/love mail" sale, open until January 31, will be donated to charity.


Trading insults

Sample of responses to Mike Smith's chainsaw auction on Trade Me:

Posted by nathskin: "Does the chainsaw come with instructions/advice on how to remove the saw once it has become stuck in a national monument? Good luck on the auction!"

Posted by earthlyflower: "The day Mike Smith attacked One Tree Hill he attacked not only Moari [sic] people but many people of many races, taking special memories from them. I spent many a time with someone special at One Tree Hill who is no longer with us. Selling this chainsaw is like waking the dead. I hope you sleep well at night."

Posted by ericjohn: "This is a disgusting auction 'used' on behalf of supposed 'conservation' and should not be allowed to proceed as it may encourage others to destroy further one-of-a-kind NZ landscapes and icons (without the forethought of passion and conviction that others [Mr Smith] may have!)"

Posted by scotty443: "Are you going to try and claim this chainsaw back in a 100 years' time?"

Posted by cashbox: "This sort of item should be run over with a dozer and put in a landfill, and shame on Trade Me if it does not pull it off."

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