News | 2 July 2021
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Te reo name gifted to ancient rimu

To coincide with Matariki, Wellington’s oldest and tallest tree, the 800-year-old rimu in Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush, will officially be gifted the name Moko with a plaque unveiling next week.

Image of rimu in Ōtari-Wilton's Bush credit Phil Parnell
Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush rimu credit Phil Parnell

The name Moko has been gifted by local Iwi after some discussion about a suitable title, and establishing the age and sex of the tree – Moko was decided upon as it is most appropriate for a female tree, which is younger than Tāne Mahuta.

Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush is the only public botanic garden in New Zealand dedicated solely to native plants, and this tree is a valuable reminder about the importance of preservation in our environment, says Mayor Andy Foster. 

“This rimu has seen off predators, diseases and human development in its over 800 years on this site, and will continue to do so thanks to our committed team and the viewing platform which helps protect the roots. 

“As guardians of this land, we are very proud of the remarkable work being done at Ōtari – and so it’s fitting we honour this magnificent tree that is the beating heart of this popular visitor attraction.

“When considering a name for formal adoption, it must reflect the unique identity, culture and environment, and tell a story about the history, geography, and heritage of the subject. It also needs to take into account the views of the community and stakeholders.

“Moko was determined to best fit the criteria, and conjure up a sense of tūrangawaewae for all to connect with and enjoy.”

It’s important to celebrate, embrace and acknowledge our environment, and recognise this iconic rimu with gifting it a te reo Māori name, says Te Atiawa's Liz Mellish.

“Ōtari is whenua that is important to Te Atiawa and Ngāti Tama as a site of indigenous forest which was a place for bird snaring.
“It was on the route to Makara and trails went past and through there. All trees of Tāne are important in Te Ao Māori, the ngahere the forest was the home of insects, birds and plants that provided sustenance for us. 

“Not only sustenance but rongoā and building materials, clothing and many other uses such as weapons, carving, and waka. The value we place on the ngahere is immeasurable for mental health as it’s a place for reflection, for gathering with whānau, and to commune with living flora and fauna.”

A bequest from architect and environmentalist Robert Fantl has helped conserve the tree – 50 years after he helped save it by challenging its demolition in the courts when the Council had plans to build a road through the area to the nearby landfill.

Funding for a viewing platform to protect the tree roots was provided by the Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush Trust, via the bequest from the Fantl estate. Members of the Fantl family will be present at the event. 

Phil Parnell from Ōtari-Wilton’s Bush Trust says the donation has helped protect the tree for now and the future.

“Donations and volunteers really make a difference in our conservation programmes, which are so important because we are in danger of losing critical species otherwise and no one wants that for future generations.  

“Ōtari-Wilton's Bush is a special place dedicated to the conservation of New Zealand native plants and trees. The Trust fully supports this mission. It is the only place where you can see the full range of New Zealand flora with over half the total species on show. Our plants are almost 80% endemic – and it’s an amazing experience for locals and visitors alike.”