Geraldine totara up for tree of the year

Tree tales . . . The Hewlings tōtara in Geraldine is in the running to be named Tree of the Year. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

A tōtara tree in Geraldine is one of six finalists in this year’s Tree of the Year/Rākau o te tau competition.

The third annual competition, inspired by the European tree of the year competition which has been running since 2011, takes place from March to May each year, and aims to track down New Zealand’s most interesting trees and their stories.

Run by the New Zealand Arboricultural Association, the competition website says it was not about the biggest or most beautiful tree, but the stories and heritage that connected people to trees.

‘‘It’s about celebrating the trees that play an important part in our lives, our history and our future.’’

The Hewlings tōtara, nominated by Rimu Tane, was believed to have been planted in 1864 to commemorate the birth of Catherine Hewlings, and was situated on Geraldine’s main street, on the site where the town’s first house once stood.

Catherine was the daughter of Samuel Hewlings and his wife, Nga Hei.

Samuel, a young surveyor from England, would later become the first mayor of Timaru.

In his earlier years, he played an important role in surveying colonial New Zealand, working in Auckland, the Bay of Islands, and Canterbury.

Though the hut burnt down in 1911, the memorial to ¯tara still stands, slotted between commercial buildings.

The winner of the competition will be announced on June 5, Arbor Day.