Auckland’s One Tree Hill: A little History

Fans of the legendary Irish rock band U2 will already be familiar with One Tree Hill.  It appears as a track on the 1987 album “The Joshua Tree” and in New Zealand it was released as the album’s fourth single the following year, staying at Number One in the Singles’ charts for six weeks.  The song would later share its name with the US teen drama that ran from 2003 to 2012.  Few, however, will know where One Tree Hill Auckland is located and perhaps fewer still will know the stories behind it.

One Tree Hill Auckland
One Tree Hill Auckland: Photo Techno246 / CC BY-SA 3.0

A little History of One Tree Hill Auckland

While in Auckland in 1984 for “The Unforgettable Fire” tour, U2’s lead singer Bono met a Maori called Greg Carroll.  On his first night in the city, and struggling with jet lag, Bono couldn’t sleep, so Carroll took him up One Tree Hill Auckland.  Carroll subsequently became a roadie for the band as well as a close friend of Bono and his wife Ali. Two years later, Carroll was tragically killed in a motorbike accident in Dublin.  He was flown back to his homeland for a traditional Maori funeral at Kai-iwi Marae at which Bono sang.  Emotionally touched by events and the funeral which followed, Bono wrote the lyrics to One Tree Hill and dedicated them to his Maori friend.

One Tree Hill Auckland is also known as Maungakiekie. It’s Auckland’s largest and most intact volcanic cone after Rangitoto, offering almost unrivalled views from its summit.  It stands over 180 metres above sea level, has three craters and an ancient lava field that stretches right down to the Manukau shore.  Together with neighbouring Cornwall Park, the latter grazed by sheep and cattle, it forms the largest area of parkland in the city.

Just a quarter of an hour’s drive from the middle of Auckland, One Tree Hill was the centre of Maori life during the 18th century when it was the most densely settled and important pā, or fortress, in the area.  At that time, chief Kiwi Tamaki exploited its position to benefit from passing travellers and the abundant food that could be obtained from the sea.  But by 1795, the pā was abandoned and in 1845, a block of land was sold to a merchant by the name of Thomas Henry.  However, the government held back the 115 acres of the hill that’s now One Tree Hill Domain.

Since 2014, One Tree Hill Domain has been officially known as Maungakiekie/One Tree Hill and is jointly owned with the Tamaki Makaurau Collective under the terms of the Treaty of Waitangi.  It’s home to the Stardome Observatory.  Astronomers working at the observatory discovered asteroid 23988 and named it Maungakiekie. The hill takes its English name from a tree which stood near the summit during colonial times, a pōhutukawa tree.  It was cut down in 1852, some say for firewood, others as the result of an act of vandalism.  Today, an obelisk stands at the top atop the grave of John Logan Campbell, who lived at Acacia Cottage in Cornwall Park and bequeathed the funds to construct on it a memorial to the Maori people.  Attempts in the intervening period to replant a lone tree had failed for a variety of reasons and so today, locals have given it the nickname “None Tree Hill”.

About JuliaHammond


Julia Hammond is a Geography teacher turned travel writer with a passion for places. Winning Mail Travel's Deep South competition was the catalyst to write for a diverse range of publications including Bradt's Bus Pass Britain Rides Again. She’s written Kindle guides to Cape Town, Peru and London for Unanchor and advice on Savannah for Wanderlust. When not travelling, she can be found at home in Essex planning her next trip, her two golden retrievers curled up at her feet.

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