Colin McCahon’s legacy takes root on Rotoroa Island with the help of BNZ

The regeneration of Rotoroa Island in the Hauraki Gulf received an artistic boost last weekend when Bank of New Zealand (BNZ) volunteers and the Kauri 2000 Trust planted 100 kauri seedlings.

The predator-free environment on Rotoroa Island is the perfect location for these special kauri seedlings, grown from the seeds of the iconic kauri which surround Colin McCahon House in Titirangi and feature in his notable paintings.

BNZ’s art collection includes Colin McCahon’s Kauri – 1953 painting and the seedlings are a further connection with the McCahon House Trust, which preserves his former home as a place for the public to visit and provides a residency for artists on the site.

General Manager BNZ Markets Graeme Liddell says, “BNZ is proud to be helping ensure the survival of these beautiful kauri as part of our commitment to supporting native reforestation.

“In conjunction with the Kauri 2000 Trust, BNZ volunteers have already planted over 8,000 kauri on the Coromandel Peninsula since 2008 and the trust has planted almost 50,000,” he says.

McCahon House Trust Chair Cynthia Smith says, “Kauri featured prolifically in Colin McCahon’s paintings and the planting of these seedlings, harvested from the trees surrounding his former house and studio and raised disease-free by Auckland Bio-Security and the Botanical Gardens, represents a chance to re-establish the trees in another location.”

BNZ’s artwork Kauri – 1953 was painted while McCahon and his family resided at the site in Titirangi and features the trees which inspired him as well as his cottage. It is one of 13 McCahon artworks in the BNZ art collection.

“Sadly, many of the kauri at the Titirangi property have dieback disease, so this replanting of disease-free seedlings ensures the continuity of this important taonga from this iconic site in the lead-up to the celebration in August 2019 of 100 years since Colin McCahon was born,” Cynthia Smith says.

“It’s fitting BNZ bought and planted the seedlings in support of kauri conservation and the legacy of one of New Zealand’s most famous artists,” she says.

Kauri 2000 Trust is based in Whitianga and has been planting kauri on the Coromandel Peninsula since 1999. BNZ has been a major corporate sponsor of the trust for the last 11 years and is committed to planting 100 trees for every kauri bond deal it executes.

The Kauri 2000 Trust preferred not to transport these McCahon kauri seedlings from Waitākere to the Coromandel, so Rotoroa Island was chosen as an alternative planting location.