About the Talking Poles

Tokoroa’s tall sculptures were first suggested by landscape designer Colleen Priest, as part of concept designs for the Central Business District upgrade for Tokoroa in 1996. At a public meeting in 1997 there was very positive support for the idea of a collection of sculptured poles representing Tokoroa’s many different cultures, clubs and organisations.​​​


Creation of a unique world icon that inspires and generates community pride, while developing a tourist attraction leading to a sustainable niche industry based on tall sculptures. The Talking Poles website can be accessed here.


Tokoroa's tall sculptures were first suggested by landscape designer Colleen Priest, as part of concept designs for the Central Business District upgrade for Tokoroa in 1996. At a public meeting in 1997 there was very positive support for the idea of a collection of sculptured poles representing Tokoroa's many different cultures, clubs and organisations.


The project has produced 46 Talking Poles in a variety of themes, styles and materials and there are more Poles in the making. The sculptures can be seen mainly around the CBD of Tokoroa and form a trail for tourists to follow. The sculptures have helped to build pride in the town, and are now an established tourist attraction. Many local businesses contributed funds and in-kind support.

The inaugural Pole Art of the World Symposium in March 2004 produced eight new sculptures in native and exotic timbers by a mix of local, New Zealand and international sculptors. The event attracted around 5,000 people to the site over three weeks, revitalizing the Talking Poles project and proving the interest and commitment of the community to its future. From that time during each symposium more beautiful sculptures in timber, stone, steel and concrete have been created.

Key Strategies​​

10-year objectives

  • develop the project into an internationally recognized attraction
  • develop a plan to offer a range of local and international business and training opportunities around the Talking Poles theme
  • continue to develop the number of sculptures - 60+ to achieve critical mass

Management Structure​​​

The Talking Poles have been established over the years by a Trust of hardworking volunteers. In 2015 the considerable efforts of the Trust were recognised by Council and by agreement with Trust members the Talking Poles project has been brought back in house to the South Waikato District Council. 

About the Greenman​​

Iconic to Tokoroa stands the Greenman on State Highway 1.

The story unfolds:​

The forest grew quiet as the trees stilled their branches. All waited for the oldest and wisest of the trees to speak. The Pine tree had been there a long time many years. He had seen the planting of this part of the forest and watched man change the structure of the land. He had been left while other Pinus Radiates had been felled, his purpose over the years becoming a certainty.

At the beginning, when he was young he had lived in fear that his turn would come and the men with their axes and oxen would chop him down. Then later, as the forest of trees grew up around him and they in turn faced extinction, the axe and oxen were replaced with the chainsaw and skidder.

He feared no longer as he watched and observed man become mindful of the new trees that had survived. Now he sensed the time had come, a change was truly taking place in the land. This was the time that had been predicted in the stars, word had passed through each generation, special knowledge only those who had their feet planted firmly on Mother Earth could recall. A new age was dawning, a new millennium was in sight.

"I give my life gladly," said the Pine "I am honoured to be the one that will record the ways of all the people who live side by side in Tokoroa. The ancient Karakia "the blessing" that will be placed with me to represent all the trees that will give their life for this new venture."

"You all will be carved, painted and designed to represent many diverse groups and cultures that reside in this town. You will know who you are. Speak out now in this dawn so that the animals and birds of the forest will take your words to many parts of New Zealand, then further out into the world."

The first of the trees to speak was a young strong tree. He said, "I will represent Samoa, I will be adorned with paint by the hands of the young women, my story will be told in many colours. I bring a story of my people to Tokoroa."

The next tree said in a soft voice, "My role is to represent the Women and what they can achieve in their own right. I will be grouped with other poles representing service to the community. I will be carved by a young male. The figures of women will represent passing fazes of a women's life in the community."

A group spoke up next, older trees, some bent with age. "We represent the forefathers, the past, time stands still for us now. We will be looked upon and stir the memories of the people. Let them acknowledge where they all came from and, if we all go back far enough in history, we would all come from the same race."

"Let us speak now," said another group of trees. These were still young. "We give our life for the future, we are the new generation. Let us unfold our branches together to represent our children joining forces. Let us represent conservation. We will be touched by many hands, each school will take a part of us to create, we are then rejoined to represent youth."

A round majestic tree spoke next, "I represent the Mother Earth. My tree will be for the little children, babies, toddlers who will touch me. I will be surrounded by laughter. These children will grow up with a deep understanding of unity, that when we share our skills and talents what wonderful results we have."

The last voice came from a huge Pine tree a deep booming through the forest, "I give my life in this form to be carved again to look like a tree. I will be carved to represent the bird and animal life that is slowly becoming extinct in our forests. I will represent the life of the forest so that people will remember us, for we have a right to live in this land."

The trees all rustled their foliage in agreement for each knew that only part of them

Page reviewed: 26 May 2016 11:17am