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Tree Information x

Identifier: TR/G1835
Tree Type: Group
Registered By: Smillie, M.J.
Registration Category: Notable tree/s – Local interest
General Notes:
Barrett Domain, at the south-west corner of New Plymouth contains remnant coastal broadleaf forest and significant wetlands surrounding Rotokare/Barrett Lagoon, named for Richard "Dicky" Barrett. Barrett was a early whaler, trader, and somewhat incompetent Treaty translator, who had surrounding land given to him by Tautara of Te Atiawa upon Barrett's marriage to Wakaiwa Rāwinia, Tautara's granddaughter [1]. The northeastern part of the domain contains native bush, both remnant and planted, most notably the Cowling Kauri Reserve.

Fred Cowling, after some initial trial plantings at his home, started planting out native conifers in a gully on his property in 1941 [2]. Purchasing seedlings from local nurseries (the plantation was just to the west of Duncan and Davies ever-growing nursery) and propagating many more in his own (former) vegetable garden, by the time he was finished planting in 1946, around 2000 trees, mostly kauri with scattered kahikatea, tōtara, rimu and mataī, were growing on the banks of the Mangaotuku stream, and a smaller grove near his house - the Mary Rielly grove, named for his wife. Cowling donated the grove to the public in 1948, and eventually most of his land to enable what is now the main access to the domain [1].

The reason for the planting appeared to be concern over the loss of native forest, especially the kauri forests of the north, a desire to create an area of natural beauty, and curiosity about growing the trees outside of their natural extent. Aside from his interest in botany (Cowling was responsible for specimen plantings throughout the locality) he had a streak of the absurd, including building a giant six-stepped concrete pyramidal folly next to his house to view his plantings [2,3] - both structures lost to re-development of the remaining property.

Around a third of the original trees have been removed to reduce suppression and improve the overall health of the stand. Given the age, size and location of the stand, it has been used in research, and contains permanent sample plots. The tallest trees exceed 32 m as per 2021 lidar data (although this may be one of the tall kahikatea growing next to the stream). The tallest kauri that was measured from the ground was just touching 30 m, still of "ricker" form, and clean of branches for at least 17 m. Natural regeneration of the kauri has been noted in Burstall's 1973 mensuration report [4].

Smillie, 2022

1. New Plymouth District Council, New Plymouth District Barrett Domain Management Plan, 2013
2. C. Smith, The Notable Trees of New Plymouth, 2002
3. Joanne Wilkes, A painting based on the life of Frederick and Mary Cowling, 2015
4. S.W. Burstall, New Zealand Forest Service, Forest Research Institute, Forest Mensuration Report No. 19, 1973 page 10.

Group Details

Group Type: Mixed species
Feature Tree Genus: Agathis
Feature Tree Species: australis
Feature Tree Common Names: kauri,
Additional Feature Tree Genus:
Additional Feature Tree Common names:
Additional Feature Tree Species:
QE II Covenanted: No
NZ Indigenous Bush type: Default Value
Actual Planting Date: actual date not specified
Approx. Planting Date: 1941
e.g. circa. 1860
Current Age: 83 years
Tree Health Description: Most trees of poor form have been thinned. Kauri dieback was suspected in 2009, but the trees were found to be suffering from resinosis
Local Protection Status: Yes
Tree Present: Yes
Number of Trees: 1300
Area Covered: 2 ha
Group of Tree Type: Feature Planting


Date Observer Action
25 Oct 2022 Smillie, M.J.


Lat/Long: -39.086472877283555 / 174.04456876770627
Location Name: Fred Cowling Reserve
Address: Roto Street
Suburb: Westown
City/Town: New Plymouth
Region: Taranaki
Location Description: The main entrance to the reserve is 200 m from the Roto St entrance carpark. The Mary Rielly Grove is just to the north of of the Roto St entrance.
Public Accessibility: Local Council Park
Local Authority: New Plymouth District Council


Preview Credit Date
Matt Smillie 08 Oct 2022
Matt Smillie 08 Oct 2022
Matt Smillie 08 Oct 2022
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