As you reach the top of Maungakiekie, more commonly known as One Tree Hill, the first and most obvious question is, “Where is the tree?” That won’t be your question for long, as newly planted trees are continuing to grow.
Interesting History of One Tree Hill (and the missing tree)
Located adjacent to beautiful Cornwall Park, Auckland’s second largest volcanic field has a controversial past.
In the 18th century One Tree Hill was home to a large Maori pa (fortified village) that was abandoned after its chief was killed in a 1740 battle. One native tree was left behind. 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. He named them “Cornwall Park” in honour of a visit from the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall and of York. He is buried at the top alongside a bronze statue of Chief Tamaki and an obelisk to commemorate ‘the achievements and character of the great Maori people.’
Nearly 100 years later, the lone pine that survived John Logan Campbell was attacked twice by a chainsaw. First in 1994 and then fatally in 2000 by Māori activists to draw attention to injustices they believed the New Zealand government had inflicted upon Māori.
The Views From One Tree Hill
The Replanting of One Tree Hill
The newly planted trees were a joint effort of the local iwi and the Auckland city council. 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 for more information on this ceremony.
Pa on Maungakiekie One Tree Hill
Practical Information and Tips for Visiting One Tree Hill
- Entry to and parking at Cornwall Park and One Tree Hill is always free.
- One can drive or hike up to One Tree Hill during the daylight. At night the road is closed to traffic. Take caution when driving to the top of One Tree Hill. The narrow road runs in both directions.
- Following sites like Mount Eden, the road to the top will soon permanently close to all non-emergency traffic.
- If you enter the park on foot from Green Lane 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.
- If you prefer a tour, check out this half-day tour from Viator that visits One Tree Hill along with several of my other favourite Auckland spots like Mount Victoria in Devonport, Wintergardens, and the Harbour Bridge (plus more). Each offers a completely different perspective, all are lovely.
More on Cornwall Park
- 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. Click here to see my full review of Cornwall Park.
- Also located in the park is Stardome Observatory, best seen in the evening when they take out the telescopes.
- When you’re done at Maungakiekie and Cornwall Park, don’t miss these 75 Free and Nearly Free Things to Do in Auckland New Zealand.
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