Ohinemuri Regional History Journal 53, September 2009
(by Graham Watton)
While there are several pines with direct connections with those which were growing on and around Gallipoli during the Anzac campaign in April, 1915, the only one left in New Zealand which is a direct descendant of the Lone Pine which stood on the ridge approach to "plateau 400" is in Paeroa.
This is the Turkish Red pine (Pinus brutia) specimen growing on the Paeroa Golf Club's Rotokohu course some 50m forward and on the left from No. 2 tee. Pinus brutia or the Turkish Red Pine, is the native pine of Gallipoli.
Researchers Mike Wilcox of Auckland and David Spencer, Kingston, ACT, Australia, recently published a paper in the New Zealand Journal of Forestry on the various species of pines growing in the Gallipoli area during the tremendous loss of life of both Australian and New Zealand Soldiers (7500 New Zealanders casualties, including 2721 dead) in the costly and failed campaign.
Sergeant Keith McDowell, a member of the Australian Forces, on his returned from the ill-fated campaign, brought with him a cone from the famous Lone Pine, from which four trees were later planted at war memorials in Victoria, Australia, in 1933-34.
However, most Anzac pines planted in Australia and New Zealand to commemorate the men lost in the Gallipoli campaign, and in particular on Lone Pine Ridge are Aleppo Pine (Pinus halepensis), which do not grow naturally in Gallipoli, but found near the Mediterranean coast of Spain, France, Italy, Croatia, Greece, Israel, Syria, Turkey, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco.
The origin of these P. halepensis trees are attributed to a cone collected by an Australian soldier from the Turkish trenches off a tree branch, probably brought in from woodlots or hedgerows planted on the Gallipoli Peninsula. Two of the most prominent Anzac pines in New Zealand are Radiata pine (Pinus radiata) and the Canary Island pine (Pinus canariensis).
Whilst there are several in Australia, the only authentic Pinus brutia in New Zealand from the Gallipoli Lone Pine seems to the one at the Paeroa Golf Club's course. It is very likely derived from the cone Sergeant McDowell brought back with him to Australia, and must rank as one of the most historic trees in the country.
The Paeroa pine is one of three secured in 1955 by John Jensen, a Paeroa District School teacher and avid arborist. He obtained them from a Mr A. W. Jessep, the curator of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens.
One tree was planted on Tuikairangi or Primrose Hill between the Bradford Memorial and Cenotaph. It suffered severe wind damage in a storm in the 1980s and had to cut down.
The second was planted on an "island triangle" in front the of the old Ministry of Works office, at the junction of Normandy Road and Johnson Street (where the L and P bottle stands today). It disappeared after the Ministry of Works moved office late in 1960s and the area was taken over by the Hauraki Catchment Board for the Ohinemuri River stopbanks.
The third, and only survivor, is on the golf course. It is alive and healthy despite its very gnarled appearance.
As this tree has gradually grown, there are an increasing number of golfers threatening to cut it down as their wayward golf balls crashed into it. Hopefully these threats will never be carried out and the club protects this historic connection with one of New Zealand's greatest and costliest campaigns. There were 44 men from this district who paid the supreme sacrifice on Gallipoli and other campaigns during the First World War.