I must have passed this tree on the way to the library in Lorne Street thousands of times since I first worked in the city back in 1986. Twenty-five years of dodging traffic zooming around corners from Rutland Street to get to my favourite part of the city. And I didn't notice the tree for what it is, and its significance.
This is a totara. Well, it's a totara that's grown there since 1975 (36 years), and I don't think it's doing all that well in that position. This is a totara:
Anyway ... the library's totara is in commemoration for Ronald Alison Kells Mason, better known as RAK Mason, one of this country's finest talents in literature and journalism. Apparently recently uncovered from the layers of bark chips and leaves -- this was what I spotted yesterday. It brought me to a screeching halt, and had me whip out the camera again.
THIS TOTARA TREE
WAS PLANTED BY THE
AUCKLAND CITY COUNCIL
THE HONOUR THE MEMORY OF
RONALD ALISON KELLS MASON
AND NATIVE SON OF THIS CITY
The only possible excuse I have for not spotting this earlier is -- maybe the plaque was covered over for a long, long time. Then again, I probably didn't expect to see something at that corner.
According to Rachel Barrowman in her book Mason: the life of R.A.K. Mason, the matter of a memorial to Mason came to Council notice at the end of 1971. Allen Curnow had a go at the Council for not noting one of our finest poets, and suggested "a simple stone pedastal with a broze plaque in Albert Park." Four years later, the Council went with Colin McCahon's idea of the totara outside the library. Mason apparently had a cynicism about stone or bronze monuments. Barrowman felt he might have been pleased with the totara choice for a monument.
Perhaps -- but it would have been better, perhaps, in Albert Park. The bronze plaque might get nicked, but the tree would have had a bit more space.