New Zealand

The Ancient Kauri of Waipoua Forest

For anybody that has visited New Zealand’s North Island you may well already be familiar with the term ‘Lord of the Forest’, also known as Tane Mahuta. For those of you who are wondering who owns this rather impressive title, it is not a question of whom, but more a question of what.

Tane Mahuta (‘Lord of the Forest’) is New Zealand’s largest known living kauri tree. The Kauri Agathis australis belongs to the conifer family of trees. Although the family is spread throughout the pacific, Asia and Melanesia, the type found in New Zealand is and always has been the most sought after. It is valued for its straight gain, easy workability and rich tonings.


Tane Mahuta

When you stand before the ancient Kauri trees you are in the presence of living entities that were mature trees before any human came to these shores. Unbelievably these trees date back 2-3,000 years to the birth of Christ and further back in time to bronze age man. Forget pilgrimages to Egypt and the pyramids – these iconic trees are not made of stone – they have been living and breathing for thousands of years.

A fully grown Kauri can reach 60 metres and have a trunk five metres or more in diameter. They are slow growing and some kauris are 2,000 years old. Tane Mahuta has a trunk girth of 13.77m,  trunk heigh of 17.68m (total height of 51.2m) and a trunk volume of 244.5 m³

Other famous Kauri trees include Te Matua Ngahere “Father of the Forest” and the Four Sisters.

Te Matua Ngahere is estimated to be approximately 3000 years old,making it the oldest and widest known kauri tree in the world. This tree is over 5 metres in diameter and has a girth greater than Tane Mahuta (16.4 metres) but the trunk is much shorter at only 10.2 metres giving a total height of 29.9 metres and an estimated volume of 208 cubic metres.

The Four Sisters are of high interest due to their close proximity to one anther. Normally, Kauri fight for sole survival, but this stand of four separate trees are believed to come from the same seed pot explosion and have co-existed for about 500 years. These trees have evenly spaced, slender trunks and the branches at the top reach outwards and not in. Just like siblings some are stronger than others due to their position in relation to wind, rain and soil nutrients.


Prized by both Maori and early European explorers and settlers, it became a boom for early New Zealanders. It was found to be most suitable for ships’ masts and spars, boat building, furniture making and building. In less than a century, the great forests of the northern half of the North Island were depleted. Their sensitivity coupled with the regeneration rates being significantly less than the harvesting rate soon saw the Kauri becoming a rare commodity.

Waipoua and the neighbouring forests of Mataraua and Waima, make up the largest remaining tract of native forest left from the once extensive Kauri forests of northern New Zealand. The remnants are now under the protection of the Department of Conservation.There is no milling of mature kauri trees nowadays, except under extraordinary circumstances such as for the carving of a Maori canoe.

Kauri trees have very sensitive surface roots, and foot traffic around the tree endangers their life span. The Department of Conservation in New Zealand ensures that friendly reminders are in place to remind visitors to keep to the designated tracks to help reduce Kauri dieback.

Importance of Kauri

The forests of Waipoua are vitally important refuges for threatened wildlife. The endangered North Island kokako is found in high, wet plateau country, but the small population is vulnerable to predation, and competition with possums. Waipoua may well contain the biggest remaining population of North Island brown kiwi, with numbers reaching into the thousands. The native forest parrots, kakariki and kaka are occasionally seen but are no longer common.

More abundant is the NZ Pigeon (or kukupa) which plays a vital role spreading the seeds of many plants. Fantail, pied tit, tui, grey warbler, shining cuckoo and kingfisher are also fairly common.

According to Maori mythology Tane is the son of Ranginui the sky father and Papatuanuku the earth mother. Tane was the child that tore his parents’ parental embrace and once done set about clothing his mother in the forest we have here today.  All living creatures of the forest are regarded as Tane’s children.

If you get the opportunity to visit New Zealand or are already lucky enough to be in the country, HOWL definitely recommends paying these ancient Kauri a visit – You will not be disappointed! Below is a video of our encounter with these incredible giants. We hope you enjoy!


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