The Warehouse has scotched rumours it plans to fell a historically significant pūriri tree connected to the renowned Ngāpuhi chief Hone Heke.
Some Kaikohe residents — with the part-felling of an Ahipara pōhutukawa fresh in their minds — feared the worst when the company called in an arborist last week to inspect the massive tree.
The pūriri occupies a corner of the carpark immediately behind the Kaikohe branch of The Warehouse.
However, The Warehouse regional store lead Richard Currie said the company was made aware of the tree's history when the store was built in the late 1990s, and that was reflected in the plaque installed next to the pūriri.
An arborist had been engaged to assess the health and condition of the tree, he said.
Arborist Andrew Allison said he had been approached by The Warehouse to inspect the "massive heritage pūriri".
He said the tree had a large, heavy overhang above a parking lot and the store's garden centre.
"They're asking for some professional consultation and workmanship to remedy the situation, so the tree is safe for everyone who comes near it."
He was working with iwi and the Far North District Council to obtain the necessary consents before work began.
"We want to give it the best care possible so it can survive for many generations to come."
Any work would be done in two stages spread 12 months apart to avoid too great a shock to the tree, Allison said.
Despite its significance, the pūriri is not listed on the New Zealand Notable Tree Register.
It has, however, been listed by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust Pouhere Taonga as a wahi tapu since 2004.
It's an unlikely location for one of Northland's most significant trees and may have escaped the fate of its forest neighbours only because of its connection to Hone Heke.
According to the plaque, the warrior chief was tied to the pūriri after being captured by his enemies Tamati Waka Nene and Patuone in the Northern War of 1845-46.
However, Hone Heke descendant David Rankin said his family preferred a different account — one that is also recorded in Te Ara Encyclopedia of New Zealand.
In that version of the story, Hone Heke was an infant when he and his mother Te Kona were tied to the tree by a Ngāti Whātua war party.
They were released only after the intervention of Te Hōtete, the father of Hongi Hika and great-uncle of Hone Heke.
That would place the incident around the year 1808 or 1809.
The tree was named Parahuhare and the area was Te Herenga, Rankin said.
The battle in which Te Kona and the young Hone Heke were captured was the same one that gave Kaikohekohe its name. It means "to eat the berries of the kohekohe tree" because that was the only food left to the defenders. The name was later shortened to Kaikohe.
The New Zealand Notable Tree Register does list three other pūriri in Northland.
They are a 23m-tall giant in Timperley Reserve at Ruapekapeka Pā; a 21m-tall specimen on Ngunguru Rd, Glenbervie, thought to be more than 200 years old; and a relatively modest tree in the grounds of Christ Church in Russell. The latter was planted by then Prime Minister David Lange in 1986.
The Kaikohe pūriri, its link to Hone Heke and the contrast with the steel building beside it, was the subject of a series of artworks created in 2002-03 by Northland artist Chris Wilkie.
In 2012 a National-led Government abolished all blanket protection rules for trees in New Zealand.
Any tree on private land can now be cut down unless it's in an area officially deemed as ecologically sensitive, or it's listed as a Notable Tree or is otherwise individually protected, for example through a council's District Plan.