1 Kauri country



NZ Lifestyle Magazine Group



Kauri (Agathis australis) is one of the oldest tree species on the planet, living up to 2000 years. It is also among the largest trees in existence in girth, if not height. Kauri once covered the upper North Island, especially thriving in the warm northern climate and spreading over a million hectares. All that remains of these once massive forests is 7500ha of protected land. It was the kauri tree's natural strengths — knot-free and with straight trunks — that made it particularly useful to colonizers both Māori and Pākehā. It made beautiful ships' masts and stable cottages. Even its gum, the resin that had bled from “injured” trees into the swampy soil, was valuable to both Māori and Pākehā, but for different reasons. Māori used it as a gum (kāpia) for chewing when soaked and mixed it with puha juice and bound it in flax for torches (it acts as a fire-starter). Kauri gum was also used as a pigment in tattoos and, from the mid-1840s, was exported to London and the United States as a varnish. It mixes easily with linseed oil to make excellent resins and, by the 1890s, 70 per cent of all oil varnishes made in England used kauri gum. Gum also remained useful into the 20th century for making linoleum, as well as in jewelry and violin varnish. Kauri gum was a large part of the colonial economy of Auckland — in 1899, 11,000 tons of gum was exported earning 600,000 pounds.