Waipoua forest, on the west coast, is New Zealand's largest kauri forest. A short walk into Waipoua forest takes visitors to some of the oldest and largest living kauri trees, including the famed Tane Mahuta 'Lord of the forest', and Te Matua Ngahere 'Father of the forest'.
In most Māori creation traditions, Tāne separated earth and sky. His parents, Ranginui (sky father) and Papatūānuku (earth mother), had produced many children while lying in a close embrace. The children became frustrated with living in darkness between their parents, and decided to push the pair apart.
This creation story by Wiremu Maihi Te Rangikāheke of Te Arawa tells how Tāne’s brothers tried and failed to separate earth and sky: "Rongomātāne arose to separate the two, but the two were not separated. Tangaroa arose to separate the two but they were not separated. Haumia-tiketike arose but the result was the same. Tūmatauenga arose and the result was the same. Finally, Tāne-mahuta arose… "
It was Tāne who successfully separated Ranginui and Papatūānuku, and created Te Ao Mārama – the world of light.
Trees in the forest are seen as Tāne-mahuta, rising to separate earth and sky. Tāne, the tree, holds the sky aloft, bringing light into the world. The widespread felling of forests in New Zealand in the 19th and 20th centuries was calamitous to the traditional world view of tribes that lived in the forest – it was like the sky rejoining the earth, and the world returning to darkness.
~ Te Ara on Tāne-mahuta