Coronation Forest 60th Anniversary September 2014

In 1954 more than 1,000 primary school children gathered in the Golden Downs Forest near Nelson to plant Douglas fir and radiata seedlings they had carefully nurtured from seeds handed out the previous year to mark the coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. It was a misty winter day on that first day of tree planting on 8 June, 1954. Little did those children know that they were beginning an annual tradition that continues to this day and will hopefully continue for many years to come.

In September 2014 the current owners of the land, Ngāti Toa, joined celebrations to mark the 60th anniversary of tree planting in the area now known as Coronation Forest.

Ngāti Toa became landowners on 1 August 2014 and it was particularly significant that the Executive Director of Te Rūnanga o Toa Rangatira Matiu Rei said karakia calling for the sun and to bless the growth of the newly-planted seedlings at the commemoration event.

“We did not realise that Coronation Forest came with the land when we bought it, but we’re very glad it does,” said Mr Rei. “We’re also very pleased that successive forestry companies have continued the tradition established by the forest service and we hope to continue to support it in the years ahead.”

More than 70 people aged from six to a week shy of 85 were present at this year’s event, including three generations of Coronation Forest tree planters from three separate families – the Mead, Carleton and Matthewson families.

The Carletons were represented by Geraldine Carleton, her daughter Karen and Karen’s son Jack and nephew Kahu. Geraldine recalls planting at Coronation Forest three times during her years at Wakefield School in the 1950s.

Planting in the snow

The pioneering children of that era were made of tough stuff. “It snowed in 1958 when we came to plant trees,” says Geraldine. “We loved it!”

Geraldine’s father Ray Mansbridge was a trainer of woodsmen at the famous Woodsman’s School in Golden Downs for five years. Geraldine’s parents lived at the Golden Downs village when Geraldine was born and during her pre-school years.

This year Geraldine’s grandsons planted their first seedlings in Coronation Forest when Tapawera Area School visited the plantation.

Coronation Forest was the brainchild of Mr Arnold Cork, Senior Agricultural Advisor to the Nelson Education Board. Mr Cork had the idea that school children could become involved in planting a forest to give them a practical interest in Arbor Day. In 1953, the year of Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation, his idea was supported by the Forest Service who approved the use of Golden Downs State Forest and from that year on the area became known as Coronation Forest.

In the first year, 750 children planted trees at Coronation Forest and it was common in the early years to have more than 1,000 children attend each year. This year Nelson Management hosted 330 children from local schools who planted tree seedlings, walked through a Conservation Trail and learned about the treasures found within a native forest, and learned about the pine forest and the important features of a tree being grown to provide wood for everyday use.

More than 40,000 children over 60 years

“We estimate that more than 40,000 children have planted trees in Coronation Forest over the last 60 years,” said Nelson Managements’ Estate Value Manager, Andy Karalus. “That is close to the total population of Tasman District. It is a fantastic tradition and it has become increasingly common for some children to be accompanied by their grandparents and parents thus representing three generations of planters who have participated. We would be delighted if we could find a family with four generations who have planted trees at Coronation Forest but none have emerged yet.”

Nelson Managements Barry Walsh has coordinated tree planting at the annual event for 40 years and has three generations of Coronation Forest tree planters in his own family.

Guest speaker Emily Jensen

The guest speaker at the 60th Anniversary event was Emily Jensen. Emily grew up in Tasman District and attended Appleby School and Waimea College. Her father, Paul, has worked in Golden Downs Forest and still works in the forestry industry. Emily represented New Zealand as a Junior Football Fern at the 2014 FIFA under 20 Women’s Football World Cup in Canada where her team made history by being the first New Zealand women’s team to qualify for the knock out stages.

Emily spoke about the sacrificies and commitment involved in training for representative sport, particularly when you are the only player in the squad who is not based in a main centre, using her journey as an inspirational example for the children (and adults) gathered at the event.

“We all have the opportunities to succeed whether that be as a sportsperson, as a forestry worker, or just as a good person, anything at all to be fair,” said Emily, “but what determines success is a little extra effort, focus and drive.”

Long-serving foresters in Golden Downs, Don Cooper and John Ward were both recognised for their contribution to Coronation Forest, including writing the definitive book on the history of Golden Downs Forest.

Essay competition winner

Year 5 Mahana School student, 10 year-old Bradley Ward read the essay which won him first prize in Nelson Management Coronation Forest Essay Competition.

The topic was “Why are pine trees good for the top of the south?”.

Pine trees are good for the top of the south because the forestry creates jobs, timber and other various things.

Pine trees are a great material for making products such as paper and MDF board or timber. This is good because people can build houses and don’t have to import timber. This supports the local industry. They are also great because they are very fast-growing trees so you can make more money faster.

Pine trees are also good for hunting and outdoor activities because people can get outdoors so they get fit and live life happily. Forests are great for mountain biking as they are bumpy and make good tracks. People can also go tramping and see wildlife.

Pine trees are great as animals live in them and breed so there are lots more animals. Wekas and Kiwis and other small animals can thrive.

Pine trees are a very good buring tree as they are so sappy and aren’t fussy what terrain they are planted on and the Nelson region is very hilly. Just think what life would be like without pine trees?

The forest gives people jobs which gives them money for buying food and a roof to keep them alive and keeping the engineering companies running. New Zealand timber gets sent all over the world to build structures. People might hear about New Zealand and come to Nelson.

(Bradley Gale, Year 5, Mahana School)

Bradley won a family weekend in Hanmer Springs to the value of $550 and a “forester for the day” opportunity to spend a day in the forest with a parent and sibling or friend and $500 for his school. Rose Graham from Stoke School won second prize and third prize was won by another Mahana School student, Lottie Stow. Rose said she had a keen interest in nature and loved trees, which inspired her to enter the competition. “I like nature and trees are good for people,” she said. Bradley enjoys hunting deer in the Nelson Lakes area with his father. “I’m an outdoor person,” he said.

Children representing schools including Stoke School, Henley School, Mahana School, Birchwood School, Enner Glynn, Nelson Central, Hampden St, Nelson Intermediate and Clifton Terrace planted a native tree in the 60th Anniversary Grove and representatives from Ngāti Toa and Nelson Management employees also planted six Totara to recognise the start of a new era for Coronation Forest.

“We are proud to continue the Arnold Cork’s legacy,” said Nelson Managements Managing Director Lees Seymour. “We hope that generations of local children come to enjoy watching the progress of the trees that we have planted today and remember that we are all guardians of the forest.”

A new song for Coronation Forest

Well-known songwriter for and with children, Roger Lusby was commissioned to write a song for the 60th anniversary celebration and he performed it live for the first time to those assembled in the forest, accompanied by Jacquie Walters and her daughters Sophia (8 years) and Isabella (6 years) who participated in the recording of the song.

Coronation Forest.mp4 from Nelson Forests Limited on Vimeo.

Listen to the full Coronation Forest Song here:

Coronation Forest Song

Dig a little hole for roots to go
Plant a tree then heel and toe
Rain and sun then watch it grow
Coronation Forest

Dig a little hole for roots to go
Plant a tree then we all know
If you care for them they grow
And we all need a forest

In the 1950s to celebrate a brand new Queen
One man had a vision, one man had a dream to

Dig a little hole for roots to go
Plant a tree then heel and toe
Rain and sun then watch it grow
Coronation Forest

Call the children ask them please help us all to plant some trees
When they grow we all will see
Coronation Forest

Listen to the Tui, hear the Bellbird sing
Through the Rata and the Beech trees Fantails on the wing
The conservation trail will make a Kiwi feel at ease
And we can build a happy home from radiata trees so

Dig a little hole for roots to go
Plant a tree then heel and toe
Rain and sun then watch it grow
Coronation Forest

Call the children ask them please help us all to plant some trees
When they grow we all will see
Coronation Forest

Dig a little hole for roots to go
Plant a tree then heel and toe
Rain and sun then watch it grow
Coronation Forest

By Roger Lusby © 2014

Nelson Forests recently received a letter from Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II to mark the occasion of the Coronation Forest 60th anniversary event: