Left to right, Leighton Stannard, Ariana Newton, Evelyn Mackie, and Baxter Rance plant the damson plum tree in Stella Bull Park for Arbor Day. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

ARTHUR HAWKES
arthur.hawkes@age.co.nz

The tree planted by Greytown Kindergarten pupils. PHOTO/ARTHUR HAWKES

On a cold, damp Thursday in Stella Bull Park, Greytown Kindergarten gathered and celebrated Arbor Day, the international tree planting ceremony, 130 years on from New Zealand’s first, held in the town in 1890.

The teachers and children were joined by parents, the Friends of the Park, along with Stella Bull’s sons, David and John Bull.

Jenny Hansen, a teacher at the kindergarten and one of the organisers of Arbor Day 2020, said that the ceremony [celebrated a day early due to last Friday’s teacher only day] was a special one, despite the “atrocious” weather.

“It was so great for us as a kindergarten, and it was lovely to see the Friends of O’Connor’s Bush and Stella Bull Park.”

Hansen said that the kindergarten had organised regular tree planting, but that the preferred spot at O’Connor’s Bush had become sufficiently planted, which prompted them to choose Stella Bull Park.

The ceremony began with speeches given by head teacher Sheena Given, as well as Ruth Evans. These were then cemented by a group waiata [traditional Maori song].

Given said that she was grateful to the Greytown community and emphasised the importance of Stella Bull’s ethos.

“Greytown Kindergarten has been a part of this community for over 60 years, educating and caring for the community’s youngest children, and with the support of this wonderful town, we will be here for many, many years to come.

“We enjoy the proximity of the park to kindergarten and honour Stella Bull’s vision of having a community garden.

“This tree is planted for all to enjoy the fruits it will bear in the future.”

The Arbor Day parade in Greytown, held on July 3, 1890. PHOTO/SUPPLIED

The first Arbor Day in New Zealand was organised by a spiritualist and owner of the Wairarapa Standard, William Nation, who lived in Greytown for many years.

Nation raised the money for the festival, by staging various entertainments, and was soon able to arrange the planting of 150 trees beside the road to Featherston.

A ceremony took place on July 3, 1890, and the day was declared a holiday in Greytown.

Over 800 attendees gathered to hear speeches and a brass band, and to plant trees, some of which are still standing beside the road today.