Authorities in Taranaki are investigating the poisoning of a pōhutukawa planted by two air force veterans as a symbol of their friendship in 1951.
Eddie Hurley and Bob Begley planted the tree on their boundary at the historic bach settlement of Tongaporutu, but now it's been drilled into and left clinging to life.
Tongaporutu is about 70 kilometres north of New Plymouth on State Highway 3 and best known for its access to the dramatic 'three sisters' rock formation.
It's also home to a cluster of 26 baches - some more than 100 years old - which are listed with Heritage New Zealand
The clapboard baches are recognised as being representative of a classic 'Kiwi lifestyle' that is becoming increasingly rare.
But Gillian Hurley said she got a nasty surprise when she visited the family bach this week.
"We noticed one of the pōhutukawas - we've got two on the property - and one of them had been poisoned and was slowly dying.
"My partner Geoff had noticed there were some holes in the tree so we assume poison must have been put into the pōhutukawa."
Ms Hurley said her dad, Eddie, and neighbour Bob Begley drew ballots for the bach sections after the Second World War.
"They built them in New Plymouth and sort of brought them out bit by bit over Mt Messenger. That would've been back in the late 1940s.
"And they planted that tree. In fact there were two trees planted but that one there was planted next door to the Begley's bach and it was sort of a symbol of their friendship."
Ms Hurley said the tree has been regularly trimmed and the family is was at a loss to explain why anyone would want to kill it.
Tongaporutu Bach Leaseholders Association chairwoman Jenny Goddard was taken aback at the apparent poisoning.
"I'm appalled, absolutely appalled. We've got a really good community there and I think we treasure that place incredibly dearly.
"To think that someone's perhaps made a deliberate act of vandalism like this is really quite shocking."
Ms Goddard couldn't explain why someone would attack the tree, but said there had been issues with security at the baches in the past.
"When there were issue things weren't stolen it was really just more kinda crazy people had broken a window and got in but not actually taken anything.
"Just very disturbing but not actually things being taken so much."
Out at Tongaporutu the few bach owners about were at a loss to explain the tree poisoning.
Lloyd Magen had only had a bach at the settlement for about 12 months and was renovating.
He was non-plussed at the tree incident.
"Yeah I don't know really. I don't live down that part so I don't really have much to do with it, but there's no need to do that is there?"
Mike Brown's family has had bach a few doors down from the Hurley's since the 1950s.
"That's pretty disconcerting from my point of view. To think that someone would deliberately kill a tree without discussion with the owners of it.
"It's lawlessness and anything outside of the law is as I say is a disconcerting factor."
Paul McEvoy was visiting the area with his wife Keita.
He reckoned the culprit was probably close to home.
"Actually we find these pōhutukawa here a different colour and they're quite unique, but why someone would do that it must be somebody whose disgruntled with it I'd say."
The New Plymouth district council, which manages the reserve, said it was looking into the incident.
A spokesman said the council was saddened that a pōhutukawa, New Zealand's Chistmas tree, had been targeted.