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Our Environment: Issue 15 Winter 1998

Our Environment: Christchurch City Council's Environmental Newsletter

Origins Of Arbor Day

The founder of Arbor Day was Julius Sterling Morton, a member of Nebraska's Board of Agriculture. He asked for one day to be set aside for planting trees to help save the Great Western Plains. They had been almost totally cleared of trees. As a result the world's first Arbor Day was held in Nebraska on 10 April, 1872.

New Zealand's first Arbor Day planting took place in Greytown in the Wairarapa on 3 July 1890.

Following calls for the establishment of a day for tree planting, 4 August was designated as a holiday in government offices for Arbor Day. This country's first official celebration took place in Wellington that year.

In Christchurch, on the same day, boys from Standards 6 and 7 at Christchurch East School gathered in front of Christchurch Cathedral, the Canterbury Times reported.

"At 10. am four tram cars left the square fully laden with passengers, trees, spades and provisions for the day. On reaching New Brighton they went northwards to the Selwyn County Council's Reserve. Mr Dunlop, a local storekeeper, brought 300 trees provided by the Selwyn County Council. Pinus, maritima, muricata, macrocarpa, japonica and gallica were among the varieties of trees planted.

"On the same day the school staff and children planted a thousand trees on a site fronting George St and the Canterbury Land Association was also active nearby. There were 3000 trees planted in New Brighton on that day."

The government service holiday for Arbor Day was abandoned in 1916. Arbor Day was officially reinstated in 1919, with no government holiday.

By the 1930s the tradition was established in the United States, France, Norway, Russia, Japan, China and most of the commonwealth countries.

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