WWI Memorial Forest Project

WWI Memorial Forest banner

We're growing a Memorial Forest in groves around the Coromandel to commemorate the New Zealand soldiers who were killed in the Great War 100 years ago.

Remember our fallen

Thanks in part to a $122,205 Lottery Grant, from the winter of 2016 we proceeded with stage 2 of the WWI Memorial Forest. This has involved planting another 5,017 trees at three sites to add to the existing 3,000 native trees at our eight sites.

Stage 2 of the WWI Memorial Forest project saw completion of planting at the Gallipoli site at Cathedral Cove, the Somme site at the Stella Evered reserve, the Sinai-Palestine site at Pauanui and the Passchendaele site at the new Mercury Bay cemetery.

Another 1,279 trees were planted at Cathedral Cove to bring the Gallipoli site total to 2,779 - one for each New Zealand soldier killed in the Gallipoli campaign in 1915. At Tangitarori Lane at Pauanui, 440 more trees were planted to bring the total to 640 - the number of NZ soldiers who lost their lives in the Sinai-Palestine campaign. At the Stella Evered Memorial Park 2,300 trees were planted around the 100th anniversary of the beginning of New Zealand's involvement in the Battle of the Somme - 15 September 1916. And, 1,500 more trees have been planted at the Passchendaele site at the new Mercury Bay cemetery to bring the total there to 2,000 trees - a representative number to commemorate the men killed in that 1917 battle.

The eight WWI Memorial Forest sites pay tribute to the NZ soldiers who fell in a particular battle or to the men from a particular Coromandel Peninsula town who were killed by planting an equal number of trees to men who never came back from the Great War.

Over the years, these groves of trees will mature into forests, providing quiet places for people to visit the tree commemorating their chosen soldier and to remember New Zealand history.

Forests of native trees

The Le Quesnoy WWI Memorial Forest site in Whangamata

[Photo: People gather at the Whangamata Memorial Forest site on the 97th anniversary of the 4 November 1918 Battle of Le Quesnoy to pay tribute to the 122 New Zealand soldiers who died liberating the French town.]

The first trees of our Memorial Forest were planted on Anzac Day 2015 - the 100th anniversary of the landings at Gallipoli.

The Minister of Conservation, Hon Maggie Barry, officially launched the Memorial Forest project at Cathedral Cove on Arbour day, Friday 5 June 2015, when 100 trees were planted at the site.

Further plantings took place through the winter, with the partnership of Waikato Regional Council, the Department of Conservation, local schools, RSAs, Lions and other community groups and more plantings have taken place for 2016's stage 2.

The forest sites

There are eight Memorial Forest sites around the Coromandel.

  • Cathedral Cove: A site on Public Conservation Land above the cove represents the Gallipoli campaign, in which 2,779 New Zealanders died. 2,779 trees have been planted here.
  • New Mercury Bay cemetery. Thirty-seven trees have been blessed and planted to represent the 37 men from Mercury Bay were killed in the war. An additional 2,000 trees were planted in the winter of 2016 - a representative number to commemorate the men killed in the Battle of Passchendaele
  • Stella Evered Memorial Park: This publicly accessible privately administered reserve hosts the Somme Memorial Forest site. Some 2,300 trees were planted in September 2016, around the 100th anniversary of the New Zealand Division joining the Somme battle on 15 September 1916. Again, one tree for each New Zealand soldier killed in the battle.
  • Tairua's RSA cemetery honours the 48 men from Tairua-Hikuai who served and died in the war. A total of 48 trees have been planted there.
  • Pauanui's Tangitarori Lane represents the Sinai and Palestine campaigns, in which 640 New Zealanders died. 640 trees have been planted on Council and WRC land.
  • Whangamata: A Council reserve at the north entrance to town has been renamed Le Quesnoy Park and 122 trees have been planted there to remember the 122 Kiwi troops killed in the Battle of Le Quesnoy on 4 November 1918.
  • At Rhodes Park in Thames, 247 trees were planted on 11 August 2015, to honour the war dead from that town. 
  • In Coromandel Town, TCDC land at the Hauraki Rd wastewater treatment plant is the site of the forest representing "Supreme Sacrifice". More than 1,000 trees have been planted there. This site also pays tribute to the 39 Coromandel Town men who fell in the Great War. 

The whole project has involved community groups and schools in the planting and care of the forests. As well as providing an enduring focus to remember the war, a goal is to provide a series of forests which provide environmental education for schoolchildren, a focal point for community involvement, and places of environmental sustainability for future generations.

The project has seen contractors undertaking initial site preparation such as digging the holes and staking, and plotting GPS for each site, with volunteers involved in the initial planting and maintenance. To ensure long-term care, contractors will be working with volunteer groups to look after each tree.

External partners

The project received a Lottery Grant of $122,205 in December 2015 and in 2014 received backing from Waikato Regional Council with a grant of $40,000. In early 2016, we enlisted the support of men's clothing retailer Barkers, which donated the cost of planting and maintaining 1,000 trees at the Cathedral Cove Gallipoli site.