Kauri has been prized by New Zealanders since pre-European times. Maori considered kauri trees to be the king of the forest and valued them because of their size and for the kauri gum. Kauri floats, so the wood was also ideal for making waka (canoes).
Early European used the kauri timber for ship building and other construction.
Kauri grows in the warm northern part of New Zealand – Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and Northland.
One of the largest and longest living trees in the world, kauri trees can live for a thousand years or more, can grow up to 50 metres and its trunk can be up to 5 metres in diameter. Full grown kauri stand above the canopy of smaller trees, such as nikau palms and rimu, and they are sometimes draped in woody twining plants.
For more than a century kauri was felled in massive volume. Colourful tales abound of the men who felled and milled the giant kauri. Life and the work was hard as the men cut down the giant trees and used ingenious dams to transport the wood to Auckland.
The first sawmills were established in the 1830s, demand for the wood expanded and by the 1890s about 75% of the kauri forests had been felled.
Along with the timber, the kauri gum was also highly prized for use in paints and varnishes. The process of removing the gum from the trees led to the death of many trees.
Logging continued up until the 1970s and was halted as a result of public pressure to save the remaining forests, and the Conservation Department has planted managed areas to re-establish the king of the forest.
Trees that fell many thousands of years ago have been preserved underground.
Radio carbon dating has found buried ancient kauri aged more than 45,000 years old. The wood is beautifully preserved, some trees have even been found with leaves that are still green. Once the trees are brought to the surface these leaves, which have been preserved for thousands of years, disintegrate within minutes
It’s not known what events caused the kauri to be buried, possibly a tsunami, earthquake, volcanic event or catastrophic landslides but kauri of all sizes were swept from forests into lowland swaps, where they have been preserved.
It is this ancient kauri that is used in making the kauri furniture at Wekawood.