Branches Cut From Famous Wanaka Tree in New Zealand

Photographers and tourists are devastated as New Zealand’s world-famous Wanaka tree has been maliciously damaged by what appears to be a saw.

Situated in-front of the stunning Southern Alps, submerged in the south end of Lake Wanaka, this globally recognised and regularly photographed willow tree, thought by historians to have evolved from an old willow fence post, was vandalised last week.

For both photographers and holidaymakers, the Wanaka tree, commonly referred to as #thatwanakatree on social media, is a symbol of New Zealand’s tourism industry and has become the perfect Instagram shot.

But, sadly, when local photographer Luisa Apanui went to shoot the tree on March 17th, she found a shocking sight. The large branches of the tree had been chopped off and were cast-off in the water nearby.

“Someone destroyed our beautiful Wanaka icon and it’s simply heartbreaking!!!” She writes in a social media post. 

The removal of the bottom branch, that use to hang horizontally to the water is gone, altering the famous composition of the tree.  Wanaka community board member Chris Hadfield said that this was a “completely senseless act.”

Local landscape photographer Gilbert Van Reenen expresses how the repetitive photographs of the Wanaka tree arguably “displays a real lack of imagination and a shallow approach to nature.” Maybe now visiting photographers and tourists will stop by the Wanaka Station Park, less than 100 meters away, where there are equally beautiful and mature trees that have a strong history to the heritage of Wanaka.

Luckily, the Wanaka tree is expected to survive this blow. If you were travelling through Wanaka on the 17th of March and saw or heard anything suspicious, please contact the local police.


Currently studying BA (Hons) Marine and Natural History Photography, Bethany is a nature photographer, specialising in all things British wildlife. When not writing articles, she can be found out in the South West countryside, photographing local natural spectacles from marine life, urban wildlife, and most recently starling murmurations.

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