Author(s): Joanna Orwin
One of the largest trees in the world, the kauri is a natural wonder and a New Zealand icon. Its immense trunk has supplied timber for every conceivable use from Maori war canoes to modern European homes.
Along the way, the industries that sprang up around it shaped national culture in ways that still echo today. Today the last remaining stands of kauri forest are preserved carefully, a must-see for locals and visitors alike. From commodity for exploitation to object of awe, the kauri and its story lie at the heart of New Zealand's own story, which is vividly brought to life in Joanna Orsin's book. Kauri: Witness to a Nation's History takes us back to the tree's ancient originals.
We read about Maori myth surrounding the tree, and about the white-skinned mariners who sailed up to harvest timber for their own 'giant birds': the great naval ships of Europe. The tree's presence looms over the colonial period and beyond, and is the very stuff from which the flagpoles at Waitangi were carved (as well as some of the country's fines architectual treasures and modern works of art). The book charts the growth of the conservation movement, and presents the modern-day issues that affect the tree, such as Maori guardianship and tourism versus protection.
Joanna Orwin has a background in plant ecology and 30 years' experience as an editor in envionmental sciences. Her lifelong interests in New Zealand's landscapes and Maori history are reflected in award-winning books that range from oral history to historical and adventure novels for children and young adults.