Fresh hope sprouts for One Tree Hill

By Bernard Orsman

The chances of Auckland getting a new tree on the summit of One Tree Hill have improved with yesterday's Treaty of Waitangi agreement with Ngati Whatua, says Auckland City Mayor Dick Hubbard.

Mr Hubbard said Ngati Whatua were aware of Aucklanders' desire for a new tree but he would be placing no pressure on the iwi to speed up the planting.

"I would like to see the tree planted but at a time that is appropriate given the sensitivity of the negotiations," said Mr Hubbard.

Since the 125-year-old pine was cut down in 2000 after it became unsafe following chainsaw attacks in 1994 and 1999, the council has been nurturing about 100 pohutukawa and totara seedling taken from trees in the vicinity of One Tree Hill and Cornwall Park. The seedlings, taken every couple of years and ranging in height from 500mm to 4m, are being grown to provide a grove of about six trees at the summit.

The grove will improve the odds of a native tree surviving the harsh, wind-blown conditions at the summit of Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill. The council has been advised to do the planting during the months of April to June to allow the trees to establish initial root growth during autumn and winter.

Plans to replant six trees at a dawn ceremony in June 2002 were stopped when Ngati Whatua Maori Trust Board chairman Sir Hugh Kawharu notified the council that the local tribe was unable to attend the ceremony.

Sir Hugh said at the time that Ngati Whatua did not want the planting to proceed while it had a claim on Maungakiekie and was in negotiations with the Office of Treaty Negotiations.

Last night he said he understood the high interest surrounding a new tree, but did not know what would happen. "I'm as interested in it as everyone else. I fully expect the planting issue will be high on the agenda of one of the early meetings of the joint committee that will administer the management of the cones.

"I can't anticipate what the governing body will decide. We have managed the Bastion Point area jointly with the Auckland City Council for 13 years and that relationship works very well. I expect through the goodwill of that relationship we will all find a suitable outcome."

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