THE LAST BIG TREE

The following article by P G Evans appeared in Bay of Plenty Mirror,
Tuesday September 21, 1971 although the event occurred in 1955.
The original newspaper article can be viewed at the archives rooms in the Warkworth Museum.

"Fire, Fire In The Big Tree!"

The very act which sought to preserve the giant kauri for posterity, was to cause its death. A spark from a fire, lit to clear the surrounding area of branches and rubbish, had lodged in the main fork and, fed on the accumulated debris of years, the last big kauri in the Rodney County was soon well ablaze.

John Furniss of Ahuroa on whose property the big tree stood, was winched into the branches, there to play a stream of water, pumped from a truck into the heart of the fire.

Too late!
The damage was done!
In a couple of years the great tree was dead and a decision was made to fell and mill it.

The Ahuroa Big Tree with its 27 foot clear trunk, was not one of the largest trees in the North, but its girth of 31 feet presented problems when it came to felling.

Massive Task

A chain saw nine feet in length was specially made up and operated by Mr. Furniss, guided by Bert Collins who showed him how to drive in pegs around the tree to keep the saw level.

The kauri is eased off the specially made chainsaw, operated by John Furniss.

Side scarfs were first cut in to reduce the width and one scarf chip, nearly 10 feet across, weighed over five cwt.

Felling the huge tree against its natural lean also tested the skill of the bushmen but, with the aid of a bulldozer's winch and cables a thousand years of majesty hit the ground that April day in 1955.

The 1000 year old tree topples from it's base.
Block and tackle helped the workmen haul the tree up the slope.

Some idea of the size of the log can be gained from this photo.
The 27ft long trunk was loaded with cable and winch.

Problems

The great log, weighing over 38 tons, presented numerous problems in handling and pictures, published here for the first time, graphically illustrated how it was transported to Segetins Mills at Silverdale.

It was too big to be broken down in the mill. A flat topped truck acted as a platform for a chainsaw operator who cut into the heart from one side, and then from the other. The two halves were still too big for the saw-bench and were split again, the whole supplying just on 20,000ft of timber.

The last journey begins.

An access road was formed and bridges on the main road were specially strengthened to take the 38 ton load.

The spirit of the Big Tree lives on in the heart and frame of many of the yachts and launches of 
Auckland and the Bay of Islands.

Read more about the history of the Big Tree at John Furniss (Jnr's) website - woodyone.co.nz