New Zealand should celebrate "The Day of Tanemahuta" on the 5th of June
National MP Georgina te Heuheu, has renewed her call for Arbor Day to be "New Zealandised" and become known as the Day
of Tanemahuta, translated in Maori as "Te Ra o Tanemahuta."
"Last year I suggested that Arbor Day be renamed the Day of Tanemahuta and the focus changed from one of consumption and
replanting, to one of conservation and caring for our shared heritage."
"The response from New Zealanders from all walks of life, was so encouraging that I feel obligated to keep the momentum
for change going."
Arbor Day, which simply means 'tree day' was started in Nebraska in 1885 in response to the state being a treeless
plain, but the focus was always on consumption and replanting.
Capturing the imagination of young New Zealanders Mrs te Heuheu said that it is important that we capture the
imagination of young New Zealanders. "We need to think about caring for our forests as well as replanting," she said.
"I believe we would achieve this by introducing a New Zealand focus to the day,"
Mrs te Heuheu said that in Maori legend it was Tanemahuta who separated Papatuanuku, Earth Mother from Ranginui,
"Just as Tane may be seen as the link between the earth and sky, so our trees symbolise the link between our past and
our future, and between Maori and Pakeha," she said.
"Just as our trees grow together our children must go forward together to a shared future. The conservation and
restoration of our native forest is not only important for Maori but all New Zealanders."
Our own identity Mrs te Heuheu said that it was natural for a young country to adopt holidays and celebrations from
other countries, but as we moved towards nationhood we would naturally want to forge our own identity.
"We need to celebrate those things that help us forge this identity and bring us closer together," Mrs te Heuheu said
"The telling of the Maori legend of Tanemahuta and the renaming of 'Tree-Day' to "The Day of Tanemahuta" may be a more
appropriate way of focusing young New Zealanders on the importance of conservation, of replanting trees and of restoring
our native forests."
Mrs te Heuheu said that as well as being the God of the Forests, Tanemahuta is the name of the great Kauri tree of the
far North, which is a National lcon and attracts over 200,000 visitors to the Waipoua forest every year.
"Tanemahuta is the world's largest rainforest tree and symbolises New Zealand's uniqueness and awesome natural
"It would be completely appropriate that we consider Tanemahuta as a suitable replacement name for Arbor Day," she said.
Support from Maori leaders and conservationists Last year the call by Georgina te Heuheu to rename Arbor Day was
welcomed by Maori leaders and conservationists.
Te Iwi 0 Te Roroa, the traditional kaitiaki (guardian) of the giant kauri tree Tanemahuta in Northland's Waipoua Forest
welcomed the proposal. Te Roroa chairperson Alex Nathan said, "Georgina's proposal, in recognising trees not just as
scientific species but as individual, special lifeforces to which all people can bond and assume responsibility for,
better reflects personalised and spiritual Maori attitudes to conservation."
Bishop Manuhuia Bennett of Rotorua, a former Bishop of Aotearoa said that the Day of Tanemahuta is a more appropriate
way to express the nation's concern and care for this aspect of the earth's bounty.
Bishop Bennett went on to say, "it's timely for the nation to have a day like this. Not only does it celebrate a return
to nature, it provides a focus for our nation's biculturalism. As a young nation it is only right that we develop
concepts such as these for the benefit of New Zealanders of every generation."
Respected Northland kaumatua Sir Graham Latimer, also supported the concept from a unifying point of view. "Tanemahuta
is a symbol of strength and one both Maori and Pakeha can unite together under," he said.
A more holistic approach Sir John Turei said, "renaming Arbor Day provides us with a chance to celebrate a holistic
approach to looking after the domain of Tanemahuta - our forests and all within it."
Conservationists also supported the call to focus on a more holistic approach.
Kevin Smith, Conservation Director of the Royal Forest and Bird Society regarded the day of Tanemahuta as a time to
treasure our forest heritage.
Stephen King, Forest Ecologist and mastermind behind the New Zealand Millennium Kauri Forest, which has been created
from seedlings from the great Tanemahuta, said the Day of Tanemahuta is a concept for New Zealanders to embrace.
"The Day of Tanemahuta is a day for the future, a day for the young and the children. Arbor Day focussed on planting,
the Day of Tanemahuta needs to focus on caring for our forests, for which planting is a part," he said.
"I'm pleased to say that all these people remain committed to the concept of Tanemahuta," Mrs te Heuheu said.
Last year Mrs te Heuheu joined with the Mayor Jenny Brash of Porirua, and a group of Porirua school children to plant
native saplings on the Porirua domain.
This year Mrs te Heuheu plans to celebrate the Day of Tanemahuta at her home in Taupo.
"I will be spending the day with younger members of my family. We intend to plant a Totora sapling in the grounds of my
home, and to reflect on the story of Tanemahuta," Mrs te Heuheu said.
Attached - The story of Tanemahuta as extracted from "Maori Myths and Tribal Legends", retold by Antony Alpers and
"Legends of Maori" by Hon Sir Maui Pomare.
Story of Tanemahuta
The story of Tanemahuta as extracted from "Maori Myths and Tribal Legends", retold by Antony Alpers and "Legends of
Maori" by Hon Sir Maui Pomare.
Rangi and Papa, the Sky Father and the Earth Mother, were the parents of all creation. The sons of these two were the
elements of life.
Ranginui (the Sky) and Papatuanuku (the Earth) were joined so tightly together that no light could come between them.
They had many children, who were forced to live in the darkness between their parents. There was the God of the winds
and storms Tawhirimatea, the God of the sea -Tangaroa, the God of cultivated food - Haumiatiketike, the God of
uncultivated food - Rongomatane, the God of the forests - Tanemahuta.
Eventually, they tired of the darkness, and came together to see what could be done.
Tanemahuta, the God of the forest, said "We must seperate our Mother and Father, so that the Sky stands far above us and
the Earth lies below us. Let the Sky become a stranger to us, but let the Earth remain close to us and be our nursing
First Rongomatane, God of cultivated food, rose up and strove to force the heavens from the Earth. But no matter how
hard he tried, he could not push Rangi and Papa apart.
Next, Tangaroa, God of the sea, rose up. He struggled mightily, but like Rongomatane, could not separate his parents.
Then Haumiatiketike, God of uncultivated food, tried to succeed where the others had failed but, he too had no luck.
Suddenly, Tumatauenga. the God of war, leapt up. If anyone could separate Rangi and Papa, it must be Tu, the fiercest of
the Gods. Tu hacked at the sinews that bound the earth and the sky but even he, with all his strength, could not part
Then all eyes turned to Tanemahuta, God of the Forest.
Tane prayed for strength, he tried first with his arms to move Rangi from Papa, but with no success. He then turned
himself upside down, and, placing his shoulders against his mother, the Earth, and his feet against his father, the Sky,
he pushed some more. Slowly, slowly, with the strength a great Kauri tree the Sky and Earth began to yield.
Great Tane thrust with all his strength, which was the strength of growth. Far beneath him he pressed the Earth. Far
above him he thrust the Sky. The other trees helped him, until at last Rangi and Papa were separated.
The multitude of creatures were uncovered and felt the light and heat for the first time.
Tane and the trees of the forest had succeeded where the other Gods had failed! Tane was very pleased and he turned
himself and the other trees the right way up again, with roots in the Earth and, branches in the Sky, the way that they
have grown ever since!