Local focus: Rissington Anzac memorial sculpture carved from a tree destined to be cut down

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A historic tree is being made an Anzac memorial in Hasting’s Rissington.

It could have lived in Hawke’s Bay for over 1,000 years, but Rissington’s iconic California redwood suffered dieback after just 120 years.

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

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

Bronwyn Farquharson, a member of the Rissington Community Board, said a big effort had been put into fundraising, with a positive response.

“People have given very generously,” she said.

One of two Anzac figures carved from a stump of California redwood in the rural community of Hastings in Rissington.  Photo / Patrick O’Sullivan
One of two Anzac figures carved from a stump of California redwood in the rural community of Hastings in Rissington. Photo / Patrick O’Sullivan

“They’re very happy to lend money for this – it’s going to be so iconic for the neighborhood
and a bit of attraction.”

Originally, a single soldier was intended for the chainsaw statue, but with a double trunk, the tree lent itself to two soldiers standing back to back with their heads and guns lowered.

The artist and sculptor asked not to be named, saying they were shy and the work was a labor of love.

Farquharson said the tree was one of many planted in the late 19th century by a local man.

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

“The story goes – of course – that he was a little silly once he got his money for horses and hides and hides or whatever he had and then got on his horse and the horse brought him home.

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

“There are still a few dotted around, but a lot of them are gone.”

It is thought that being surrounded by tarmac may have caused the early demise of the Rissington redwood.

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

“We started Anzac Services about four or five years ago and since then it’s been a small community gathering,” Farquharson said.

“But it’s actually become quite popular and we have it at 11 a.m. so people can still go to the dawn parades and things like that around town and then come back here.

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

“We usually have a uniformed soldier laying the wreath.”

Due to the very wet autumn the sculpture will not be completed in time for Anzac Day.

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

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

Every five years it will be refinished or repainted – or whatever is necessary – to keep it up to date.

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

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

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