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CENTRAL SOUTH ISLAND FARMER
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m: 021 567841
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Tel: 03 313 3444
SMITH & BOSTON
Prebbleton Village | Ph: 3495-646
Farmer celebrates his deep roots
An environmental award-winning farmer with a lifelong love for
trees tells Jon Morgan of his tough early life and the rewards
of hard work and a loving wife.
Paradise: Tom Hartree has a sentimental
attachment to a grove of redwoods stretching
45 metres into the sky in a gorge on his farm at
Dartmoor, Hawke's Bay.
TOM HARTREE is a vigorous 78 and has
no intention of being culled for dog tucker
anytime soon, but he knows what he wants
to happen when his time comes.
He wants his ashes to be mixed with
those of his dearly missed wife Dora and
scattered in a grove of 45-metres-tall red-
He and Dora planted the redwoods in
1969, in the bottom of a deep gorge carving
through Te Motu, one of three farms he and
son Greg and his wife Rachael farm at
Dartmoor and Patoka in the hills west of
The gorge had been cleared by his grand-
father and father earlier in the century and
he remembers mustering sheep in its rug-
ged hollows on horseback as a young
He also has memories of finding the bro-
ken bodies of cattle that lost their footing
on the heights and plunged to their deaths.
It got so all the work and the stock los-
ses weren t worth the extra grazing we got
from it. I decided it was best to fence it off
and let it regenerate, he says.
While the native kanuka quickly reasser-
ted itself, he and Dora got to work, planting
matai, totara, kowhai, cedars, eucalyptus,
redwoods and cardiocrinum lilies, 2.5m tall
with distinctive huge heart-shaped leaves
and a powerful fragrance.
Now the 67-hectare gorge, protected by a
QEII Trust covenant, is a green mosaic of
bush studded with thrusting trees and
echoing with birdsong.
In the redwood grove that will be his final
resting place, Mr Hartree stops to lean
against a tree and look upward.
Isn t it amazing, he says.
I remember when this tree was just a
tiny seedling; now look at it.
I love it here, it s a little paradise, he
I m not a loner, but I m happy in my own
company and I spend a lot of time in this
gorge, thinning trees, cleaning up, trans-
planting matai seedlings -- it s a labour of
He spreads his arms and looks around
I ve had two great loves in my life, Dora
and this land. I ve been very lucky.
He grew up at Te Motu, the youngest son
of a cold, distant father.
His father William, known by everyone
as Boss, was a World War I soldier
invalided home from Gallipoli badly
injured. His bitterness was so well-known
that when he walked out into the Napier
main street to stop the motorcade carrying
the Queen and Prince Philip in 1953 he was
just ushered away by police without
We were very poor, living like peasants.
It was very tough on my mother.
New land was taken on at Puketitiri and
when two of his brothers returned from
World War II they farmed at Patoka, killing
100,000 rabbits in their first three years --
income that saved their farm.
The financial pressure eased in the 1950s
wool boom and in 1956, when Mr Hartree
was 21 and had been working on Te Motu
for five years, his father told him curtly,
I m sick of living here, I m going into town.
You can run the farm. .
He threw me in the deep end, but I
didn t mind. I was glad to be rid of him, Mr
Always with a fondness for trees -- at 16
he had brought home from school in Napier
a carefully wrapped sycamore seedling
which is now a huge tree -- Mr Hartree
began planting in unruly corners of the
farm. At 23, he added £50 ($100) savings to
contributions from his father and three
brothers and bought 200ha of bush reserve
at Puketitiri that is now a QEII Trust
covenant of rimu, matai, totara and red
He and Dora married in 1960 and
together began to add to Te Motu s plant-
ings and to create huge dams.
They also looked after kiwi rescued from
the encroachment of farming on the bush,
eventually breeding the first birds to be
hatched in captivity anywhere in New
In 1970, the opportunity for more tree
planting and wetlands came when he and
his brother John bought a neighbouring
farm, Ngaroto, from their Uncle Jack.
The extra pastures made sheep and beef
farming more economic, good timing as
they were about to encounter tough times
in the 1980s.
Dora s contribution was crucial, Mr Har-
Without the stability she brought to the
family things wouldn t have turned out
nearly as well as they have.
Greg, who gradually took over in the 90s,
has carried on the plantings. He doesn t
have to travel off-farm to take his two
young sons fishing, hunting or camping.
From fishing for trout in the Tutaekuri
to camping in the redwoods, the pleasure
we get from this land warrants the atten-
tion we can lavish upon it, he says.
Though Dora died in 2006 her legacy
lives on in events like the Cranford Hospice
fundraising garden and dam walks.
Mr Hartree says seeing the farm looking
so beautiful is its own reward.
To be able to live in one place for 78
years and see it evolve like this has been a
gift beyond my wildest dreams.
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