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WWI Memorial Forest to take root with ANZAC Day plantings

17 April 2015

ANZAC Day will see the first trees planted in our Council's World War I Memorial Forest.

Two signature native trees are to be planted at three sites around the Coromandel as part of ANZAC Day commemorations on 25 April.

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli landings, when New Zealand troops fought their first major campaign of WWI.

In all, 18,166 New Zealanders died in the war. By the 100th anniversary of the war's end in 2018, that number of trees will have been planted at 10 sites across the Coromandel.

The trees will be planted in forests that represent major battles and campaigns that New Zealand forces took part in.

"The New Zealand World War I Memorial Forest is a fitting and long-lasting tribute to the New Zealand men and women who fought and died in the service of their country a century ago," says Economic Development Programme Manager Ben Dunbar-Smith.

Mr Dunbar-Smith has been overseeing this complex project that also involves significant contributions from RSAs, community groups, schools, Waikato Regional Council and the Department of Conservation.

The 10 forest sites will also form a growing tourism attraction, with trees available for purchase and each tree GPS-located.

"The tourism benefits of the Forest are considerable and in the early stages of planting there will be spin-off effects from the local goods and services related to the project," says Mr Dunbar-Smith.

Signature trees

After discussions with RSAs and local communities, it was decided to keep the plantings on ANZAC Day low key so as not to detract from the day's traditional remembrance ceremonies.

The three sites where planting will take place on ANZAC Day are: the new cemetery at Mercury Bay; Tairua's RSA cemetery; and in Whangamata on the Council reserve near Durrant Drive.

At the new Mercury Bay cemetery 35 trees will be blessed on ANZAC Day. Two of these will be planted and the others taken away to be planted after 5 June when the weather conditions for planting are better.

After the trees are blessed and planted, a New Zealand WWI Memorial Forest sign will be unveiled that honours those from Mercury Bay who gave their lives in the war.

The cemetery forest site also remembers the Battle of Passchendaele, where eventually more than 2,000 trees will be planted.

At Tairua's RSA cemetery two signature trees are to be planted on ANZAC Day after the dawn service.

A New Zealand WWI Memorial Forest sign honouring those from Tairua-Hikuai who served and died in the war will be unveiled at the same time.

A further 46 trees will be planted over the winter months, when conditions are best for tree planting.

Also on ANZAC Day, two signature trees are due to be planted at a Council reserve at the northern entrance to Whangamata near Durrant Drive that will represent the Battle of Le Quesnoy, where 122 Kiwi troops died.

A Memorial Forest sign will also be unveiled at this site. A further 120 trees will be planted here this winter with the  final two signature trees to be planted in a special ceremony on 4 November, the anniversary of the battle, which was fought in 1918.

"Supreme Sacrifice"

There will be seven ther Memorial Forest locations.

A site near Cathedral Cove on DOC-managed land will commemorate Gallipoli, where 2,779 New Zealanders were killed. Planting is due to begin in early June.

A third Mercury Bay site, at the Stella Evered Reserve at Purangi, is in the works but is not confirmed. About 5,000 trees could be planted there, representing those killed in the battles of The Somme in 1916 and 1918.

More than 200 trees will be planted at Rhodes Park in Thames to honour the war dead from that town. Planting is due to begin on 7 June, which is the anniversary of the Battle of Messines in 1917.

The Thames War Memorial will commemorate the Battle of Messines. Thirteen-hundred trees will be planted at this site beginning next year after weed clearance and track work is completed.

A Waikato Regional Council (WRC) site at Albert St in Coromandel Town will honour the war dead from that town. Thirty-nine  trees are to be planted on 6 June.

TCDC land at the Hauraki Rd wastewater treatment plant will be the site of the forest representing "Supreme Sacrifice". More than 1,000 trees are to be planted there beginning early June.

There is also potential for a walkway along Whangarahi Stream linking these two sites.

"This could prove a valuable tourist asset to Coromandel Town and provides an opportunity for community groups to get involved in planning and implementing it," says Mr Dunbar-Smith.

In Pauanui, 640 trees representing the number killed in the Sinai-Palestine campaign are to be planted on Council and WRC land on Tangitarori Lane once some of the larger pines in the area have been felled.

Planting here could begin in early June and continue next year.

For more details on the WWI Memorial Forest project and the plantings around the Coromandel, go to www.tcdc.govt.nz/ww1memorialforest.

To find out more about ANZAC Day commemorations go to www.tcdc.govt.nz/ANZAC2015