A 92-year-old woman was moved to tears as she watched the pine tree her late husband had planted almost 30 years ago get chopped down yesterday .

But they were actually happy tears thanks to a thoughtful act organised by her own granddaughter.

Anne Veale secretly arranged yesterday for the top of the old tree to be lopped off before the pine was felled, and for the tip to be presented to her gran Anne Mitchell, 92, as a special Christmas gift.

Veale, now 33, was 4 when she and her granddad Tai Mitchell planted their Christmas tree in a paddock neighbouring their St Johns, Auckland property.

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"Grandad said they should get a real Christmas tree that year," said Veale, now 33.

"Then after Christmas he didn't want to put it on the kerb. He thought he'd just plant it down here and see if it would grow."

Tai decided to call it Colin after All Black Colin Mead, aka "Pinetree".

"We tied it to a stake with grandma's stockings. Every few days we walked down with buckets of water.

"Then it took off, we've been able to watch it from my grandparents' deck. You could see it getting higher and higher."

Anne Veale with her 92-year-old grandma Anne Mitchell and two branches of the pine tree Veale's granddad planted almost 30 years ago. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Anne Veale with her 92-year-old grandma Anne Mitchell and two branches of the pine tree Veale's granddad planted almost 30 years ago. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Tai died three years ago aged 95 but his wife Anne Mitchell, still lives in their home.


So when Veale and Anne found out that the vacant block of land next door was going to be developed by Summerset retirement village, they joked about chaining themselves to the tree to stop it being cut down and taking turns to run back to the house for cups of tea.

Anne Veale with the Norfolk Pine tree she helped plant with her granddad Tai Mitchell in 1989 when she was 4. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Anne Veale with the Norfolk Pine tree she helped plant with her granddad Tai Mitchell in 1989 when she was 4. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Veale emailed Summerset to ask if she could pay an arborist to chop the top off the tree and give it to her grandma to use this Christmas.

But when Summerset heard her request, they went above and beyond, paying for the arborist and for Veale to fly up for the day from New Plymouth so she could present the special tree to her grandma personally.

The arborist was struggling to get the tree to topple, Veale said. He kept cutting a little bit at a time but when he ran to get something from his car a tui landed on it and the whole thing finally fell over, Veale told the Herald.

"Grandma cried yesterday when she saw it still standing, then she's been crying as she watched it come down.

"They're not sad tears, we're just so moved because my grandad would have loved this.

"He was just the most beautiful person. I was definitely his favourite grandchild. He never said that, but I say that. I'm named after my grandma."

Unfortunately, the top broke as the tree came down but the family tied two branches together so it looks like a Christmas tree. It'll stand in Anne Mitchell's living room for when the family come around to celebrate Christmas Day.

"It's amazing that it was a little thing to go and plant that, but its always been there and it was part of my granddad," Veale said.

"It started off as their Christmas tree and now it'll end as their Christmas tree. It's come full circle."