Under cover of darkness and howling wind and rain from a storm the vandal struck.

The hunt is on for a brazen vandal who took advantage of Wednesday night's storm to cut down a large kauri tree at Whangārei Hospital.

The cheeky man even had the gall to put up orange cones around the area first before using the chainsaw he brought with him to fell the tree.

And to rub salt into the wound, he waved at the CCTV camera that captured his handiwork as he left. He left behind the cones that he probably picked up from roadworks nearby on Maunu Rd and a pile of sawdust from his destruction.

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It was a blatant act of vandalism that has left Northland District Health Board (NDHB) baffled as to the man's motives.

NDHB acting chief executive Ian McKenzie said about 10.45pm on Wednesday - amid the storm that dumped 62mm of rain on the city during atrocious conditions - a vandal chopped down a mature kauri tree outside the Jim Carney Cancer Treatment Centre, on the Whangārei Hospital campus.

"It is beyond belief to understand what has motivated such a senseless act," McKenzie said.

"They have taken away a beautiful piece of nature that we know is valued greatly by patients and staff alike."

He said the offender has been captured on CCTV footage with a chainsaw, placing cones around the fall area and then cutting down the tree, waving to the cameras as he left.

"We are very keen to identify this person and hold them to account for purposely damaging a significant tree on our property," McKenzie said.

This kauri sapling is the progeny of a kauri tree that was more than 80-years-old and was cut down in mysterious circumstances at Whangārei Hospital.
This kauri sapling is the progeny of a kauri tree that was more than 80-years-old and was cut down in mysterious circumstances at Whangārei Hospital.

The kauri tree is well over 80 years old, but a ready made replacement has been found - but it will take a while to reach the same heights.

As the site was being cleared up a kauri sapling from the tree was found growing in the foliage beneath where the tree stood.

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The destruction is another hit to the country's iconic kauri trees which are already under threat from kauri dieback disease.

The matter has been reported to police and anyone with information about the incident or the offender's identity can contact Whangārei Police on 105 and quote the file number 200716/0871.