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Wednesday 08 April 2009


Planting a Pohutukawa at the Circle of Friends

Posted in: HIV
By Wayne Otter - 16th October 2008

A new Pohutukawa tree was planted in Auckland's Western Springs reserve on a sunny spring day to remember New Zealanders lost to the HIV epidemic.

The tree had featured in the Candlelight Memorial Ceremony back in May at St. Matthews-in-the-City church, when friends there attached names of people who had passed on. Those names were saved and planted underneath the tree.

NZ AIDS Foundation Burnett Centre manager Wayne Otter addressed a small group at the planting ceremony with a heart-felt speech.

Candlelight Tree Planting Ceremony – Circle of Friends – 15 October 2008

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The small gathering at the tree planting ceremony

"Before we commence the formal part of today's ceremony, I would like welcome you on Behalf of NZAF, The Candlelight organising group and Jonathan Smith who was one of the founders of The Circle of Friends I would like to thank each of you for taking the time out of your busy schedules to attend The Candlelight Tree Planting Ceremony.

Just take a bit of time to take in the beauty that surrounds this special place, and in your own way acknowledge, the earth in its splendour and holder of life, the air and its power which keeps us alive, the water, which helps us survive, the sun and its warmth as a sustainer of life. Now turn to the person next to you and communicate your welcome to them and their forefathers in silence.

As you are aware, the International AIDS Candlelight is a program of the Global Health Council. It is one of the oldest and largest grassroots mobilization campaigns for HIV/AIDS awareness in the world. It started in 1983, and Candlelight takes place every third Sunday in May and is led by a coalition of some 1,200 community organizations in 115 countries.

This year was the 25th anniversary and to mark this milestone a tree was placed within St Mathew in the City, for people to place the names of people they have known and lost to HIV. Today we are placing those names with other gifts of nourishment, in the hole to assist this beautiful tree to grow.

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Planting the Pohutukawa

The Pohutukawa and its cousin the Rata hold a prominent place in Maori tradition. Legends tell of Tawhaki a young Maori warrior, who was attempting to find heaven, in order to seek help in avenging the death of his father. He fell to earth from this vine and the crimson flowers of these trees are said to represent his blood. There is also a gnarled, twisted Pohutukawa on the windswept cliff top at Cape Reinga. For Maori this small, venerated Pohutukawa is known as 'the place of leaping'. It is from here that the spirits of the dead begin their journey to their traditional homeland of Hawaiiki. From this point the spirits leap off the headland and climb down the roots of the 800-year-old tree, descending into the underworld on their return journey. So I feel that it is quite fitting that we are gathered here planting such a tree.

As we place the kite and its contents into the hole and plant the tree, I would like to recite a piece by Nelson Mandala:

The time for healing of wounds has come.

The time to build is upon us…

We pledge ourselves to liberate all our people from the continuing bondage of poverty, deprivation, suffering, gender and other discrimination…

There is no easy road to freedom…

None of us acting alone can achieve success.

We must therefore act together as united people, for reconciliation, for nation building, for birth of a new world.

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The Circle of Friends, showing names of those who have passed on

As we leave this place, remember the verse, the circle, the tree, this day and gain strength from each other in order to continue our fight against HIV and AIDS."



Wayne Otter - 16th October 2008