Sir John Hall and Tree Planting
When the first settlers first took runs on the Canterbury Plains the only relief from the tussock was ‘a few miserable Cabbage trees’. These provided no protection from the two prevailing winds: the hot gusts of the nor’wester and the intense cold of the southerly.
As a sheep farmer and a member of the Provincial Council, John Hall promoted tree planting in Canterbury from 1856. His main aim was to provide shelter. His property, like all the others, was originally unfenced so that in a gale, stock would be driven before the wind and scatter far and wide. Much time was subsequently spent searching for the animals. Protection from the wind was especially crucial at lambing and shearing. John Hall had commented that once trees reach 20 feet high both crops and grass were twice as good for 20 chains from the belts. In parliament he promoted a scheme, passed in 1871, whereby leaseholders were granted two acres of crown land for every acre planted to stated criteria. Trees were also needed as a source of timber for building. He had experimental plots soon after his arrival. One of these can still be located.
Planting trees in an L-shaped formation proved to be the most effective way of shielding sheep and later crops from the adverse effects of the wind. The shelter belts were up to two chains wide. The choice of trees was extremely important. They had to be able to withstand both heat and cold and survive in a low rainfall area. Hall eventually concluded that Pinus radiata (or Pinus insignis as it was known at that time) was the best suited to the region. It had an abundant foliage and grew faster than other conifers in the conditions of the Canterbury Plains making it the ideal tree "for an old man in a hurry" for shelter to his land.
Hall received radiata seed from the first Geological Survey shipment in 1870. He was again a recipient of Geological Survey seed in 1889. The Christchurch nursery firms of J Greenaway and Kerr & Barnett also supplied seedlings, but Hall found it cheaper and more successful to propagate plants in his own nursery. By 1883 whole belts were planted in radiata.
He presented his views on the importance of planting for shelter to the 1898 Agricultural Conference, published in the Country Journal. As that presentation makes clear, his interest in trees extended to conserving forests and planting replacement timber reserves.
Though experience led him to favour Pinus radiata planting for shelter belts, Hall also planted many other species. He enjoyed deciduous trees and the plantation of 37 acres (15 ha) not far from the homestead contains Oak, Elm, Ash and Sycamore. He also planted other conifers. Particularly noteworthy is the avenue of Sequoia gigantea (Wellingtonia or Giant Sequoia) which lines the driveway to the homestead. It is thought 60 trees were planted to commemorate Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee in 1897. Others were planted round New Zealand that year, sometimes outside court rooms or council chambers. Wellingtonia was chosen because Prince Albert had planted one of these trees in the Royal Horticultural Society’s new garden in Kensington Gore (London) in June 1861 not long before he died.
The garden at Terrace Station contains fine specimens of Oak, Oregon, Horse chestnut, Elm, Sequoia and various other conifers. In the archives there are detailed planting plans, lists of trees and areas planted each year, and a map of the property showing shelter belts.