One Tree Hill Obelisk

One Tree Hill Summit, One Tree Hill, Auckland

  • One Tree Hill Obelisk, Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 29/10/2001.
  • One Tree Hill Obelisk, Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 18/09/2001.
  • One Tree Hill Obelisk, Auckland.
    Copyright: Heritage New Zealand. Taken By: Martin Jones. Date: 18/09/2001.
  • One Tree Hill Obelisk, Auckland. October 1965. Image courtesy of CC Licence 2.0.
    Copyright: Archives New Zealand. Taken By: Mr G Riethmaier.

List Entry Information

List Entry Status Listed List Entry Type Historic Place Category 1 Public Access Able to Visit
List Number 4601 Date Entered 16th November 1989 Date of Effect 16th November 1989


City/District Council

Auckland Council


Auckland Council

Legal description

Pt Allot 11 Sec 12 Sbrs of Auckland, One Tree Hill Domain Recreation Reserve (NZ Gazette 1980 p.313)


The obelisk is an Auckland icon, standing on the summit of the Maori pa at Maungakiekie - also known as One Tree Hill - in the centre of Cornwall Park. Originally erected for Auckland's centenary celebrations in 1940, it formed part of the bequest of Sir John Logan Campbell, to commemorate his admiration of 'the achievements and character of the great Maori people'. Campbell, who arrived as one of Auckland's pioneer settlers in 1840, lived and worked among local Maori before making his fortune as a general merchant and businessman. He died in 1912 after gifting Cornwall Park to the city, and is buried on top of One Tree Hill.

The obelisk is roughly 30 m (100 feet) tall and surrounded by a paved area, incorporating Logan Campbell's grave. Obelisks were popular as funerary monuments in nineteenth-century Europe, and elsewhere. The memorial includes a bronze Maori statue, cast by the sculptor Richard Gross, of a man with a huia feather in his hair and mere in his raised right hand. Four bronze plaques around the plinth commemorate Campbell's bequest, and provide a mid twentieth-century account of Maori migration and the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi. They are notable for being inscribed in both English and Maori, and affirm Maori as the first peoples of New Zealand. Retaining powerful symbolism, few modifications have been made to the monument since its construction, although a nearby Monterey Pine on the summit was removed in 2001. This had been damaged by Treaty of Waitangi activists, who believed that a non-indigenous species in such a location was inappropriate.

One Tree Hill Obelisk has considerable significance as a symbol of biculturalism and respect between Maori and Pakeha, and lies on a site of great importance to Maori. It commemorates a prominent early pioneer who gifted the land to the city for public use, preserving a large part of the pa for posterity. It is the most dramatic of several monuments in Cornwall Park that commemorate Logan Campbell, and plays an important role as an Auckland landmark and icon. The obelisk is one of the most prominent monuments in the region, while its statue is considered the earliest casting of a Maori figure in Auckland. The monument demonstrates the educational function of public parks in the twentieth century, and the importance of cultural conciliation in the years surrounding the Second World War. It is held in high public esteem for its symbolic qualities, and as a popular sight and vantage point.

Assessment criteriaopen/close

Historical Significance or Value

The monument on Maungakiekie is important in its honouring of both the Maori people of Tamaki-makau-rau and John Logan Campbell, one of the first European settlers of the area and 'Father of Auckland City'. Although it has been in place for only 50 years it has achieved a significant visual and historical importance to the people of Auckland, Maori and Pakeha.


The Auckland region has few obelisks. The One Tree Hill obelisk is the largest and most prominent. The combination of obelisk and bronze statue have a unity confined as they are within the courtyard and walls. The base of the monument is unusual in its sustained form. This was the first statue in the form of a Maori figure to be erected in Auckland.


The obelisk on the summit of Maungakiekie is highly visible from most parts of Auckland and the surrounding countryside from Manukau Heads, the Bombay Hills and much of the Hauraki Gulf. It is a visual focal point of the city.


Construction Professionalsopen/close

Abbott, Richard Atkinson

Abbott (1883-1954) began his career in the office of C L N Arnold and became his partner in 1910. Abbott, whose career began prior to the passing of the New Zealand Institute of Architects Act in 1913, became registered under that Act.

He is best known for the design of Auckland Grammar School (1913) which is one of the earliest Spanish Mission style buildings in New Zealand. He also designed several branch buildings for the Bank of New Zealand including the Upper Symonds Street branch (1937) and several buildings at King's College, Middlemore, including the Memorial Chapel (World War I), the Memorial Library (World War II) and the Assembly Hall (1954).

Abbott was active in the New Zealand Institute of Architects, serving on its Council (1926-28), and on its Education Committee (1926-36). In addition he was Chairman of the Auckland branch of the Institute (1927-28).

Abbott was born at Parnell, Auckland. He was educated at St John's College and King's College after which he joined the architectural firm established in the 1870s by Charles Le Nevre Arnold. Abbot became Arnold's partner in practice in 1910. After Arnold's retirement in 1927, Abbot remained in sole practice for a time, but was later joined by G.I. Hole.

Abbott's first major achievement was in 1913 when he submitted the winning design for the Auckland Grammar School. The janitor's cottage was part of the design brief.

Abbot became a Fellow of the New Zealand Institute of Architects in 1913. Five years later he prepared the winning site layout for the King's College site at Middlemore. In contrast to Auckland Grammar School, the buildings on the King's College campus were designed in a more conservative Gothic collegiate style. In addition to the main building at King's (Kings College Main Block, NZHPT Registration # 529, Category II historic place), Abbott designed the memorial church to Old Boys who died in the First World War (Kings College Chapel, NZHPT Registration # 90, Category I historic place); the library; a memorial to old boys killed in the Second World War; and the School's assembly hall.

For over 25 years Abbot was the architect for the Bank of New Zealand in the Auckland region. He is also remembered as the designer of the One Tree Hill Obelisk (NZHPT Registration # 4601, Category I historic place), constructed on Maungakiekie, One Tree Hill in 1939-1940.

Gross, Richard Oliver

Gross was born in England and immigrated to New Zealand in 1914 having been trained in sculpture at the London Camberwell School of Art under Albert Toft. Toft was a regular exhibitor at the Royal Academy of Arts from 1885.

Gross' works include the Auckland Domain gates' statues, Wellington Citizen's Peace Memorial, the Savage Memorial at Orakei, the carved lion head fountain on the Carillon at Wellington and the stone lion in the Auckland Domain Wintergardens. At one time Gross was the only New Zealand sculptor casting in bronze at his own foundry.

Gross was president of the Auckland Society of Arts for ten years, chairman of the McKelvie Trust Board and chairman of the Associated Art Societies of New Zealand.

Additional informationopen/close

Historical Narrative

Maungakiekie (One Tree Hill) has a long association with Tamaki-makau-rau and the Waiohua people.

The monument was financed from a bequest by Sir John Logan Campbell, the 'Father of Auckland'. Campbell was fascinated by the obelisks he had seen in Egypt and it was his wish that this monument to the Maori people should take this form. Land for the monument was set aside in 1912 around Campbell's grave on the summit. The area was enlarged in 1936 to accommodate the monument and obelisk. Work was completed by August 1940. The statue was removed for safety for the duration of the war and re-erected again in 1946. The monument was formally unveiled in 1948.

Physical Description


The shaft sits on a 7.6m high base, having four diagonal braces, with foundations extending 4.3m below the surface of the surrounding court. A basalt stone random rubble wall 3.3m in height, with battered face, retains the sub-base of the courtyard and obelisk. The obelisk is 30.8m (100ft) high. The tonolite-faced shaft has been rubbed rather than polished. The edges of each face have a groove running along the length of the shaft giving the corners the appearance of incipient ovolo moulding. The pyramid cap is sheathed in stainless steel.

The base and buttresses are of alternately rusticated basalt blocks and rubbed stone wedges. A corbel course of rusticated stone projects near the top of the base. Above this the stone is stepped.

A cast bronze statue, 2.3m tall, stands on a corbelled base with chamfered angles, on the north side of the base. The statue is of a rangatira, semi-draped in a cloak. He holds a mere in his right hand. The monument stands on an elevated paved court, enclosed by a semi-circular retaining wall. Two flights of stairs give access to the courtyard.

Notable Features

Registration covers the structure, its fixtures and finishes. It also includes the elevated paved court around its base, the semi-circular retaining wall and two flights of stairs giving access to the court. The structure is associated with the grave of John Logan Campbell and lies on the site of Maungakiekie pa.

Construction Dates

Pa site

1822 -
Pa reoccupied

1847 -
Site of early colonial signal station

Original Construction
1939 - 1940
Construction of obelisk, including statue

1941 -
Removal of statue

1946 -
Re-erection of statue

Construction Details

The shaft of the obelisk is of reinforced concrete with Coromandel tonolite facing.

Completion Date

21st August 2001

Report Written By

Martin Jones

Information Sources

Auckland Public Libraries

Auckland Public Libraries

Oct 1964, p93, 'Bronze Caster',

Sept 1975, p68, 'Mrs Dibble Puts End to Cat Riddle', Auckland Scrapbook

Cobb, 1994

John Cobb, Cornwall Park: The Story of a Man's Vision, Auckland, 1994

Woodward, 1972

Robin Woodward, 'Public Sculptures in Auckland, 1895 - 1971', MA Thesis, University of Auckland, 1972

Hayward, 1987

Bruce W. Hayward, 'Granite and Marble: a guide to building stones in New Zealand', Geological Society of New Zealand Guidebook, No.8

New Zealand Herald

New Zealand Herald, 12 July 1932, p. 6; 28 September 1933, p. 6.

9.4.1940, p8, 'Maori Memorial'

24.4.1948, p8 'Unveiling of Obelisk'

New Zealand Historic Places Trust (NZHPT)

New Zealand Historic Places Trust

'One Tree Hill Obelisk, Cornwall Park, Epsom, Auckland', Buildings Classification Committee Report, Wellington, 1989

Reed, 1955

A. W. Reed, Auckland: City of the Seas, Wellington, 1955

Stone, 1982

R. C. J. Stone, Young Logan Campbell, Auckland, 1982

Stone, 1987

R. C. J Stone, The Father and his Gift: John Logan Campbell's Later Years, Auckland, 1987

Fleming, 1980

John Fleming, Hugh Honour and N. Pevsner, Dictionary of Architecture, London, 1980

The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Third Edition, Harmondsworth 1980

1987 (reprint)

Beattie, 1983

S Beattie, The New Sculptors, London 1983

Graves, 1970 (reprint)

A Graves, The Royal Academy of Fine Arts Exhibitions 1769-1904, London, 1970 (reprint)

Weave, 1915

L Weave, Memorials and Monuments, London, 1915

Whittick, 1935

A Whittick, Symbols for Designers, London, 1935

Whittick, 1945

A Whittick, War Memorials, London, 1945

Journal of the Polynesian Society

Journal of the Polynesian Society

F G Fairfield, 'Maungakiekie', Vol. 50, No. 198, 1941, pp.92-104

Vol 50, pp92-103

Obituary Scrap Book

Obituary Scrap Book

Vol 41, 1954. p93, 'Death of Leading Architect'

June 1964-Oct 1967 p41, 'Noted New Zealand Sculptor Dies'

Auckland Museum Library

Auckland Museum Library

John Logan Campbell Papers, MS 51

Folder 311 - 'Obelisk Correspondence 1924-1933'

Folder 313 - 'Obelisk Correspondence 1938'

Folder 314 - 'Obelisk Correspondence 1939'

John Logan Campbell Papers, MS 51, Folder 310, Sketch Plans (4)

Auckland Architecture School Library

Auckland Architecture School Library

Plans/Measured Drawings: Auckland Architecture School Library - Abbott, R.A. Proposed Obelisk for Maungakiekie

Other Information

This historic place was registered under the Historic Places Act 1980. This report includes the text from the original Building Classification Committee report considered by the NZHPT Board at the time of registration.

Please note that entry on the New Zealand Heritage List/Rarangi Korero identifies only the heritage values of the property concerned, and should not be construed as advice on the state of the property, or as a comment of its soundness or safety, including in regard to earthquake risk, safety in the event of fire, or insanitary conditions.