About Kauri


The Creation Myth

In the beginning, out of nothingness Ranginui (the sky father) and Papatuanuku (the earth mother) were created.

Rangi and Papa clung together, trapping the children they had made in a land of darkness. The strongest child Tane mahuta (the god of the forests and creator of the forest creatures) pushed his parents apart to bring light to the land and allow his children to flourish.

The Te Roroa iwi of Waipoua forest believe Tane's legs were the giant trunks of kauri.

Kauri giants

The New Zealand kauri is the largest tree in the Agathis genus and the only Agathis species native to New Zealand.

Many of the great kauri giants were felled by early pioneers for their high quality timber. One of the largest kauri trees ever recorded was 'Kairaru of Tutamoe' with an estimated diameter of 6.4m and a height of 65m. Unfortunately, Kairaru was destroyed in a fire before 1900.

The largest kauri alive today is Tane Mahuta with a diameter of 4.6m and height of 52m. It is estimated to be between 1200 and 2000 years old.

Cultural significance

Kauri is considered a taonga species by many Māori: valued as a connection to the spiritual beliefs and way of life of their ancestors.

Kauri played an important role in many aspects of early Māori culture: integrated in creation mythology, rituals, war, art and everyday life. Some large trees were given names and revered as chiefs of the forest. On special occasions, the giant trunks of kauri were used to carve out large waka taua (sea/war canoes)

Kauri gum had many valuable functions. Gum was burned as an insecticide in kumara plots, wrapped in flax to make torches for night-fishing and used as a chewing gum (kapia). Kauri resin was also burnt and mixed with fat to create the ink for moko (facial tattooing) of rangatira.

By the 1800s, early European pioneers had developed a thriving timber and gum industry based on kauri. Large areas of kauri were felled for their timber, which was valued for its strength and ability to withstand sea-water conditions (ideal for boat masts and hulls).

Kauri gum was used in varnishes, paint, linoleum and to create ornaments. Gum was largely collected from the ground, however some was gathered by deliberately injuring or 'bleeding' trees.