Share Your Memories of Rotorua

​​​​​​Kete Rotorua, our digital knowledge basket, is a place to preserve your images, documents, memories and stories of life in Rotorua over the years. Help us to gather Rotorua memories — stories from mums and dads, grandparents and great- grandparents. How they used to dress up for fancy dress events and decorate their school float for the Christmas Parades and enjoy a bottle of milk at school, their memories of the Service Convalescent Hospital  or how they waited for hours to see the Queen drive down Te Ngae Road only to be disappointed that she didn't have a crown on her head...

Does anyone know who these bathing beauties are? We would love to hear from you. Contact Alison Leigh 07 351 7025 or email​


Rotorua's first Christmas Tree

- as remembered by Bev Emmerson.

Many of our readers must remember the giant sequoia tree near the north-western corner of Fenton and Haupapa Streets. For a long time it was lit up as a Christmas tree to the delight of local children and visitors.

The tree was planted by Reverend Frederick Hamilton Spencer, the son of Reverend Seymour Spencer who was an early missionary to the Tuhourangi  people first at Kariri (Galilee), then at Te Mu. At the time of planting in 1887, Arbor Day plantings were common as the early townspeople sought to beautify the area with exotic trees. In 1903, the Government Tourist Bureau (now incorporated into the current Fenton Street tourism centre) was built close to the tree.   (Reverend Fred Spencer was also responsible for the planting of the “Spencer Oak” several years after this in the grounds of his one acre property bounded by Arawa, Haupapa and Amohau Streets which was known later after additions as Arawa House). Some early trees fell victim to attack by wandering stock for which their owners were roundly criticized.

A picture of the landmark sequoia appeared in the New Zealand Womens’ Weekly in 1966. We next hear of the tree in 1972 when it is reported as “dying back” because of the rising ground temperature around it with increased thermal activity. Cold water was injected into the ground under the direction of Rotorua City Council saving the tree.

In 1980, the Rotorua centennial year the 93-year old developed a lean. Both Rotorua (now Lakes) Council and the government Tourist & Publicity Department claimed that responsibility rested with the other party.  Finally the tree was cut down in 1984/1985 as it was thought to be slowly dying. The new tourism centre incorporating the original Government Tourist Bureau and the 1914 Seddon Post Office linked by a new structure was opened in 1993 and there were plans to feature the huge stump as part of this visitor complex.  Nothing came of this proposal and the stump was ground.

Help us build Kete RotoruaContact Alison on 07 351 7025 to talk about how you can be involved or email any queries here​.

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Page reviewed: 13 Jun 2018 1:41pm