In the pouring rain, the grandmothers made their way to the puriri tree in in single file with black lace veils covering their faces.

When they reached its wide truck at the edge of Graham's Bush in Manukau, they said a prayer, laid flowers and then together they pressed their palms onto the 400-year-old tree's bark and wailed.

Some of the six groaned while others openly wept as television cameras zoomed in on their pained faces as they pressed against the tree which is set to be felled to make way for the Redoubt Rd motorway upgrade.

After "making contact with the tree and feeling it's grief", the women stepped back and said a prayer telling it: "May you live on in the spirits of the earth".


The six grandmothers then turned to one another, stood in a huddle, veiled heads touching and began to hum.

The women are not from the area but have long known each other through teaching others about reconnecting with the earth.

They created the group the "Grieving Grandmothers" this month to farewell the tree and grieve the "tragic loss" of the ecosystem.

In February, the Redoubt Rd upgrade got given the go-ahead by independent commissioners who worked their way through 286 submissions before making their decision.

However, environmental activists felt their arguments fell on deaf ears and said they were left devastated by the preferred option which would require bulldozing 1500sq m of Graham's Bush.

Head grandmother Juliet Batten said Auckland Transport had an option which meant the puriri tree could be saved but it was rejected.

The women travelled from across the city for the ceremony because the day it is felled, they will wake up in a poorer world, Mrs Batten said.

"It's a tragedy, it's a living being. It's a living entity," she told the Herald.

An appeal has been lodged in the Environment Court by the Tree Council.