It is a tree that belongs to everyone and may even pre-date the arrival of humans to New Zealand - but someone wants it dead.
Now security cameras have been set up to protect the ancient pōhutukawa in Tairua.
Arborist Pete Wilson discovered about two months ago that the tree on Mt Paku had been poisoned.
Wilson grew up in Tairua and has been climbing Tairua's trees since 1977.
He wanted the public to be aware of the poisoning so they had the opportunity to join him in outrage.
"It's like smashing up a graveyard - except we don't have any as old as that.
"It belongs to everybody. It's what the Coromandel is . It should be quite emotional for everybody."
Wilson believed the tree could be 800 or more years old. The near perfectly symmetrical crown is 23.5m across with a canopy that covers 400sq m.
As such, Wilson said it could be the biggest and oldest pōhutukawa tree to have been poisoned in recorded history.
"Pre-dating humans, this tree could have witnessed the first Māori coming up the Tairua Harbour," he said.
Wilson has found an organic plant growth stimulator from a scientist in the Far North which may reverse the effects and support other similarly poisoned pōhutukawa back to good health.
He is optimistic that a large portion of the tree will survive.
But a second poisoning attempt was made before cameras were installed to monitor the tree and others around Tairua.
Wilson hopes these cameras will catch or prevent people from poisoning again.
"There has to be a consequence to show you can't get away with this and it's not worth it."
Thames-Coromandel District Council is lodging a formal complaint with police.
"If evidence is gathered, we will take the person responsible to court," said TCDC communications manager Laurna White.
"If anyone has seen anything or has any evidence about this tree poisoning, please contact the police."
The council asked the community to be vigilant and report anything they know.
If the tree could not be saved, falling limbs as it decays would force its removal and the roots would rot, leaving a cavity underground and risk the road to slump.
"In this case, as the tree is on a steep slope, the soil-anchoring effect of the roots is lost and there could be a slip in the future."
Where other trees have been cut down or poisoned, the council had replanted and sometimes put in a tree surround to protect the new tree.
"We ask the community to be vigilant. Tell us or contact the police direct if you know anything about this particular event or of any concerns about anything similar in the future.
The most significant of trees that are on public land are given protection through a council register. However there is little protection for trees on private land.
Mt Paku is a tree-cloaked volcanic peak subdivided by former developer Jim Mason decades ago - and it has significant old pōhutukawa and puriri still growing.
"Compared to the number of trees that are on Paku, there aren't many trees on [the register]," said John Drummond, chairman of the Tairua Environment Society.
Drummond is a long-time resident on Paku and a professional draughtsman.
Mason, he said, had ensured protection for many of these trees.
In Drummond's working capacity he's seen numerous properties that have protection for trees written on to the certificate of title, yet he thought these protections were often overlooked.
"I'm sure people aren't aware. I'm sure council staff aren't aware. But there are mechanisms to protect trees."
The council has put up signs to show the cultural significance of some trees in Tairua. A pōhutukawa on the shores of Paku Bay, "Tangi Manawa" or weeping heart, is where Maori tied their waka when transporting the dead for burial.
Wilson believed more should be done to deter tree vandals, including fines of hundreds of thousands of dollars and the use of technology such as night cameras installed to protect them.