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Tree Information x

Identifier: COR/1510
Tree Type: Single
Registered By: Smillie, M.J.
Registration Category: Notable tree – National interest
General Notes:

S. Percy Smith, the Surveyor General of New Zealand in the late 19th century was documented as stating that “it was common knowledge [in the 1860s and 1870s] that there was a huge kauri growing on the mountains at the head of the Tararu Creek…the tree was stated by those who had seen it to be 28 feet in diameter” [1].

That tree, sometimes referred to as “The Great Ghost”, has no record of a reliable measurement and is stated in the literature to be more likely to be a well-documented and photographed tree at Tararu. Called by Sale as the giant kauri of Fiery Creek, the imposing tree was on the southern ridge line above the Tararu creek valley, just above the headwaters of Ohio Creek, one of Tararu Creek’s tributaries (with Fiery Creek actually a smaller, unlabeled, tributary further downstream).

Reached via the Waiotahi Track to the mining settlement of Punga Flat and the workings beyond, the felling rights to the forest including the tree was purchased by Maurice Casey, who then offered the tree to the Thames Council for preservation for the sum of 25 shillings on the condition that the surrounding bush was cleared to protect the tree from fire.

The tree became a well-known attraction of the region; especially after photographs of the tree were published, including one by the noted artist Gottfried Lindauer [2], along with Auckland’s Josiah Martin and the Foy brothers from Thames. Martin measured the tree at 46 feet in girth, and 55 feet to the first branches [3]. Other accounts of the girth range from 35 to 50 feet, and up to 130 feet tall [4].

The tree was considered such a fine example of a Kauri tree that an illustration of it was used in the official 1899 New Zealand Yearbook, and Martin’s photograph was used in Hutchins' 1919 publication on New Zealand Forests [1].

Casey’s foresight helped the tree survive a fire in 1887. However it was not so lucky in the first week of 1898, burning down at that time. The charred stump of the tree, still some 4.5 m across at the base, was identified by local historians Althea Barker and David Wilton after discussion with Waiotahi Road resident David Pryor in 2010 [5]. The stump, only a few meters from one of the increasingly popular Coromandel tramping tracks, is a reminder of both the early appreciation of the magnificent kauri and the loss of so many to fire and axe.

Finally, it should be noted that there is a contemporary description of the tree that clearly states that there were two immense kauri trees at Tararu [6]. This tree, reached via the Waiotahi Track , and another at the head of the Tararu creek proper, a few more miles inland. It is possible that the “Great Ghost” tree actually existed, but no further proof of its legendary size is known to exist.

Smillie, 2019

[1] D. E. Hutchins, New Zealand Forestry, Volume 1, 1919.
[2] G. Lindauer, Artist, Kauri Tree, Ohio Creek, Upper Tararu. [Art]. 1882.
[3] E. V. Sale, The Quest for the Kauri, Reed, 1978.
[4] E. E. Bilbrough, Brett's Handy Guide to New Zealand, 1890.
[5] A. Baker and D. Wilton, “The Giant Kauri Tree,” The Treasury Journal, vol. 3, 2010.
[6] F. N. A. W., “The Big Kauri Tree,” Thames Star, 1 May 1884.

Single Tree Details

Genus: Agathis
Species: australis
Common names: kauri,
Given Name: Tararu Creek Kauri, The Big Kauri,
Height: 39.60m
Height measurement method: Estimated
Height Comments: Plausible contemporary estimate of 130 ft/39.6 m
Girth: 1403 cm
Girth measurement height: 1.4 m
Girth Comments: Reported girth of 46 ft.
Diameter: 446.6 cm
Crown Spread A: 30.00m
Crown Spread B: 30.00m
Avg. Crown Spread: 30.00m
Actual Planting Date: actual date not specified
Approx. Planting Date:
e.g. circa. 1860
Current Age: not known years
Tree Health Description: Appeared to be in good health before being burnt.
Tree Form Type: Single Trunk
Number of Trunks: 1
Tree Form Comments: Bole appeared to thicken before branching into massive leaders some 16 m above its base.
Champion Tree Score: 707
Local Protection Status: Yes
Tree Present: No
STEM Score: 0


Date Observer Action
01 Jan 1882 Martin, J


Lat/Long: -37.10762257520774 / 175.56181329339302
Location Name:
Address: Waiotahi Track
Suburb: Punga Flat
City/Town: Thames
Region: Coromandel
Location Description: A few meters from the track, close to a recent slip and near "Lookout Rock", some 500 m above sea level and an hour or two climb up the track.
Public Accessibility: Department of Conservation
Local Authority: Thames-Coromandel District Council


Preview Credit Date
Josiah Martin 01 Jan 1883
Foy Bros, Auckland Libraries Heritage Collections, AWNS-18980730-4-2 01 Jan 1883
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