One, two, tree lovely things

A sentimental Victorian parlour song begins….


"I think that I shall never see,
A poem as lovely as a tree….


We take trees for granted and indeed I did just that when the last Golden Jubilee Snippet focused on the wonderful Dilworth Centre, a rare building of great beauty and great importance, a building that New Zealand Heritage has listed as one of New Zealand’s most important example of the Arts and Craft Movement and the earliest building in New Zealand associated with Agricultural Education.

If you go around to the back of the Dilworth Centre and look to the north you will see MIT’s other listed feature of our natural environment – the Holm Oak Tree. It is probably around 100 years old which now covers a substantial area to a great height in a beautiful parabola of dense foliage supported by a majestic trunk and huge and sinuous limbs, our only listed tree.

This tree was originally a Mediterranean native but it is widely spread throughout the world. Like an oak, it is one of the few varieties that are not deciduous. Year-round shade is handy for the MIT Arborist Programme – the tree is a magnificent climbing frame for the budding arborists to develop the skills of working at heights safely and quickly.

Keep looking to the north and across the grounds of the school playing field and you will see a cluster of tall and greatly mature trees growing around one of the houses in Gilbert Road (about halfway down that street). That house was built for the beekeeper who would teach apiary. One of those trees is a mighty Norfolk Pine.

James Dilworth is to be recalled at this point and to do with trees. As he set out to develop educational institutions – first in central Auckland starting with the MIT Dilworth Centre. This was intended to be the first of a set of three such institutions educating young boys in agricultural and animal husbandry skills. But money was tight for developments such as this and the two schools at Manurewa and Waitakere did not eventuate. So the energetic James Dilworth set about a fund-raising venture – he sold sapling Norfolk pine trees to pioneering settlers who planted them usually quite close to their cottages.

If you see a lone Norfolk Pine towering over single-storey houses in South Auckland, lower your eyes to the base of the tree and often you will find the original cottage – well it is getting harder as trees are removed to make room for development but you certainly could apply this rule until the 1970s and the 1980s.

Finally, as spring approaches lookout for the magnificent Kowhai trees that surround the Ngā Kete Wananga Marae.

Ogden Nash lamented our rush to get rid of the trees and suitably amended the song we started with…..


"I think that I shall never see
A billboard lovely as a tree
Perhaps unless the billboards fall
I’ll never see a tree at all!


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¹ Future Golden Jubilee Snippets will relate the story of MIT Manukau., and of the Secondary Tertiary Developments.