As you reach the top of Maungakiekie, more commonly known as One Tree Hill Auckland, the first and most obvious question is, “Where is the tree?” While the history below answers that question, one of the newly planted New Zealand trees will soon replace the original icon.
As American expats who have been living in and exploring NZ for over 20 years, we see things from both a local’s perspective and from that of a visitor. Therefore, we understand what it’s like to come here and have things be similar, but not always exactly what we are used to. We share the information on this page from this perspective.
One Tree Hill Auckland history, an interesting story of a missing tree
Located adjacent to beautiful Cornwall Park, Auckland’s second-largest volcanic field has a controversial past.
A large and active Māori pa (fortified village) sat on the dormant One Tree Hill volcano as recently as the 18th century. A battle in 1740 resulted in the chief’s death and the abandonment of the pa. However, one native tree remained.
Not knowing its significance, a white settler cut it down in 1852. In response, prominent businessman John Logan Campbell planted a grove of pine trees, only one of which survived.
In 1901, Campbell donated 230 acres of One Tree Hill to the city of Auckland. He named them “Cornwall Park” in honour of a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and of York. Campbell’s gravesite is at the top alongside a bronze statue of Chief Tamaki and an obelisk to commemorate ‘the achievements and character of the great Māori people.’
Memorial flowers sit at the gravesite of John Logan Campbell, while abronze statue of Chief Tamaki, a Māori warrior, stands at the front of the obelisk on One Tree Hill Auckland:
Nearly 100 years later, Māori activists attacked the lone pine that survived John Logan Campbell with a chainsaw, on two separate occasions, first in 1994 and then fatally in 2000. Both times were to draw attention to injustices they believed the New Zealand government had inflicted upon Māori.
Designed as a memorial to the Māori people, the obelisk on One Tree Hill now symbolizes a centennial tower marking the 100 years since the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi.
The obelisk plaque reads: “The monument was erected in accordance with the will of the late Sir John Logan Campbell Kt who visualized and desired that a towering obelisk should be erected on this site, the summit of Mauncakiekie as a permanent record of his admiration for the achievements and character of the great Maori people.“
The views from One Tree Hill
One Tree Hill is an extinct, intact, volcanic cone marking Auckland’s second-largest volcanic field. (The largest is Rangitoto Island.)
The replanting of One Tree Hill Auckland
This is where the tree used to stand on One Tree Hill. In the background, we can see Mount Eden, Auckland’s highest natural point, as well as the Auckland Sky Tower, which is the tallest free-standing structure in the southern hemisphere. Interestingly, the viewing platform on the Sky Tower is at nearly the same height as Mount Eden’s summit.
In June 2016, the Tamaki Makaurau iwi and Auckland council planted nine trees and vegetation to replace the destroyed tree. The fence protects the new trees. Now, it is difficult to distinguish one tree from the next.
The newly planted trees are protected and allowed to grow. In the end, a team of arborists will choose the strongest tree to remain, thus returning Maungakiekie to a “one tree hill”.
At the official announcement in 2015, then-mayor Len Brown said, “Clearly for Aucklanders the return of an icon. Without the tree being on Maungakiekie One Tree Hill, there was a sense of it representing the divided nature of Auckland. Now as a new united city we really want to recognise the tree as a great symbol of the unity of Auckland.” Click here to read the news article about this ceremony.
Pa on Maungakiekie One Tree Hill
Driving yourself and walking up One Tree Hill
- Entry to and parking at Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill is always free.
- You will need to park at the base of the volcano and walk to the top. The One Tree Hill walk is a gentle, easy stroll, although obviously uphill. It’s one of the best walks in Auckland.
- The option to park at the top closed in early 2019. A measure of protection, the trend to close roads to all non-emergency traffic on national landmarks follows Mount Eden.
- If you enter the park on foot from Greenlane Rd, turn into the park and continue on Pohutukawa Drive. Where the road splits, you will see the Cornwall Park Cafe and a toilet block to your left, or follow the path to the right to see the historic buildings. Continuing beyond the historic buildings is the gate leading into One Tree Hill.
- Locals use the path that is just beyond the gate (to the left) to get to the top. It is steep and can be slippery in spots, especially if it has recently rained. The recommended path to the top is along the road.
Take an Auckland city tour that visits One Tree Hill
Only a handful of Auckland city tours visit One Tree Hill, and these half-day tours are the ones we recommend. Note that regardless of how you get there, unless you have an accessibility need, you will have to walk up to the top if you want to see it.
Auckland Volcanos Half-Day Tour
This five-hour tour will get you to the top of four of our most famous volcanos: Mount Wellington, Mangere Mountain, One Tree Hill, and Mount Eden. Best of all, it’s usually available with a discount: Reserve your spot on the volcanos tour here.
Half-Day: Small-Group Auckland Scenic Tour:
This four-hour tour is a great introduction to the city, and perfect for visitors staying and the city, as well as cruise ship passengers. Discover some of Auckland’s history as you visit three volcanoes, each offering very different views.
You will also stroll through one of the older suburbs and visit the Wintergardens. With excellent reviews, we feel really good about this tour. It takes only 11 passengers per tour. You can reserve your spot here.
More on Cornwall Park, NZ
Cornwall Park is a family-friendly destination and a tree lover’s paradise. Groves of trees, gentle walking paths, paddocks with sheep and cattle, and a children’s playground fill the park.
Plus, there are two historic buildings – one being the hand-built home of John Logan Campbell himself. There is also a popular cafe, offering the perfect spot to relax after a hike to the 182m summit.
We have written a separate page on Cornwall Park
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