Rissington Anzac Carving

It could have lived in Hawke’s Bay for more than 1000 years, but Rissington’s landmark Californian redwood suffered dieback after just 120 years.

Hastings District Council said the 40m tree must be removed in case it fell from its traffic island on the corner of Puketitiri and Soldiers Settlement Rds.

But locals had a better idea: to turn the tree into an Anzac sculpture.

Rissington Community Board member Bronwyn Farquharson said a big effort went into fundraising, with a positive response.

“People have given very generously,” she said.

“They are very happy to lend money towards it – it’s going to be so iconic for the district
and a bit of an attraction.”

Originally just one soldier was planned for the chainsaw statue, but with a double trunk the tree lent itself to two soldiers standing back to back, with heads and firearms lowered.

The artist and carver have asked to not be named, saying they are shy and the job was a labour of love.

Farquharson said the tree was one of several planted at the end of the 19th century by a local man.

“I think he came to town once every three months,” she said.

“The story goes – of course – he’d go on a bit of a bender once he got his money for horses, skins and hides or whatever he had, and then climbed up on his horse and the horse would bring him home.

“So wherever he stopped on the way home he’d plant a redwood tree, and this is one of them.

“There is still the odd one dotted around, but a lot of them have gone.”

It is thought that being surrounded by bitumen may have caused the Rissington redwood’s early demise.

Like many rural communities in New Zealand, Rissington is paying increasing attention to Anzac Day.

“We started up the Anzac services about four or five years ago and since then it’s a little community gathering,” Farquharson said.

“But it’s actually got quite popular and we have it at 11am so people can still go to the dawn parades and things like that in town, and then come back out here.

“We usually end with a cup of tea and a sandwich.

“We usually have one uniformed soldier that lays the wreath.”

Because of the very wet autumn, the sculpture will not be finished in time for Anzac Day.

“We are going to have an opening for the Redwood a little bit further down the track – make it special,” Farquharson said.

The whole traffic island will be part of the Anzac memorial and there is a budget to maintain it.

Every five years it will be revarnished or restained – or whatever is necessary – to keep it up to scratch.

“I hope it lasts forever – I don’t know. This is a different type of wood, of course, being the redwood rather than the macrocarpa that has been used before.”

The redwood statue is within walking distance of the community hall and it is hoped future Anzac ceremonies might include a walk between the two.

The local community including The Rodney Green Foundation contributed to finish the project.

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