New competition gives Kiwis the chance to vote for their favourite tree

The winning tree will be announced on June 15.
The winning tree will be announced on June 15. Photo credit: Getty

Every year Kiwis flock to the Forest & Bird website to cast their vote for their favourite bird. But this year, they are being asked to branch out and nominate their favourite tree as well.

Voting in the organisation's 'Be With A Tree' competition opened on Friday, and gives people until June 14 to have their say.

It coincides with Arbor Day, celebrated here on June 5 every year to promote the preservation and planting of trees.

Just like with Bird of the Year, tree lovers can pick from a selection of popular New Zealand trees, with a winner announced June 15.

Sarah Satterthwaite, Kiwi Conservation Club manager at Forest & Bird, says unlike with birds people often forget just how important trees are.

"We definitely want people to be aware of the amazing trees around them and sort of look at them and have a greater appreciation for them," Satterthwaite told Newshub. 

"Sometimes it's easy to walk past those trees on the way to work, and they're just a thing that's there."

The aim of the competition is to encourage people to pause and think about not just the physical attributes of trees but also the effect they can have on our mental wellbeing and happiness, says Satterthwaite.

Studies show being around trees can lead to a reduction of stress and anxiety and an increase in immunity.

"There's huge amounts of evidence around the benefits of having trees in our community so we really want people to go 'yay trees'."

Voters will be given a selection of trees to choose from online, but if their favourite isn't there they can share a photo of it on social media with the hashtag #bewithatree2020 and the judges will consider adding it to the options.

This year's competition follows a similar one last year where people could vote for their "hero tree".

"We were trying to get people to think about which trees were heros to them, whether it was because they gave them food or provided them shelter or an ecosystem, whatever worked for them," says Satterthwaite. 

"But what we noticed from last year is that people were aware of those sorts of benefits from trees but weren't thinking about the intangible benefits of trees and so this year we want the focus to be the most-loved New Zealand tree, so it's trying to tie into those emotional connections with trees."

Last year the kōwhai was voted the country's "hero tree", but only time will tell whether it's the overall favourite too.

"It will be interesting to see if it's also our most loved-tree, or whether a tree like pōhutukawa is a more-loved one, or whether it's going to be a surprise one."

Satterthwaite says it "would be amazing" if the competition ended up becoming as popular as Bird of the Year, though admits trees are a slightly harder to sell than cute birds.

And her personal favourite? 

The classic pōhutukawa - "although the kōwhai is a close second".