New Zealand Kauri

Kauri (Agathis australis) grows in forests in northern New Zealand. They are among the world’s mightiest and ancient trees, growing to over 50 m tall, with trunk girths up to 16 m, and living for over 2,000 years.

Heavy logging and clearing of farmland, which began around 1820, has considerably decreased the number of kauri trees. 90% of kauri forests standing before 1000AD was destroyed by early 1900s.

Maori used kauri timber for boat building, carving and building houses. The size, strength and resistance to rot made Kauri a popular wood for construction and ship building, particularly for masts of sailing ships by the European settlers. It was also appreciated and prized for its beauty, being highly sought after for ornamental use as well as high-end furniture.

Karui is now a protected species in New Zealand and the remaining forests are held within National Parks.

New Zealand Swamp Kauri

Swamp kauri, sometimes marketed as “ancient kauri”, are prehistoric kauri trees, buried and preserved in peat up to 50,000 years ago.

Buried under a peat swamp by an unexplained act of nature at the end of the last Ice Age, the trees have survived for centuries underground, sealed in a chemically balanced environment that has preserved the timber in perfect condition.

Extraction of the logs is time consuming, expensive and technically difficult, requiring skilled operators of heavy machinery working in wet conditions. Each log must be carefully brought to the surface. If the log is salvaged from native forest or wetlands then after the log has been removed, the area is restored to its original contours.

The swamp kauri that I have used comes from north of Kaitaia and has been carbon dated to have been buried for 30, 000 to 50, 000 years. It has value in its natural state but cannot be exported out of New Zeeland unless it is carved into a finished product.

“Swap kauri is one of worlds most valuable and exquisite timbers” National geographic.

“Man and plants have a common origin. Maori saw plants as having senior status, Tane (god) created them before mankind, and they were therefore respected as older relatives. They are the link between man and sacred ancestors, Papatuanuku and Ranginui” (Te Rangi Hiroa 1950)