Barry Pulls Stumps on Ōhaupō Project

Green-fingered garden and tree enthusiast, Ohaupo’s Barry Cox, is keen to see his world-first life’s work continue to grow – but knows it’s time for that to happen under the watchful eye of someone else.

Seven years after he finished it, and with more than 30,000 visitors having been through its doors, Barry is selling his property which features his iconic and world-renowned TreeChurch.

It’s a creation thought to be the only one of its kind in the world.

“The body is just telling me it’s time, but I know I’ll never replace how special this is,” Barry, who turns 70 next year, said.

He has been lovingly tending and carefully crafting the landscape of what now greets busloads of visitors to the roughly two-hectare property since he moved there in 2005.

Initially starting life simply as a passion project, “because I’ve always loved trees”, the TreeChurch and surrounding idyllic gardens were first opened to the public in 2015 – but those wanting to see them in person need to do so fast.

The TreeChurch from the air. Photo: Ray Dixon

Under current ownership, the venue will remain open to the public each Sunday until early next month.

“Really, initially I just wanted something special here, away from the rush of society with peace and tranquillity – and I think I’ve achieved that.”

Barry said he’s always had a love of trees – he sold a tree business he ran three years ago – and a wide range of species make up the structure of the TreeChurch – which seats about 110 people.

Barry Cox takes a pew in his TreeChurch

The trees that make up the church are trimmed every couple of months to keep them pristine.

“When I was looking to do something, I thought to myself ‘I don’t know of anyone who has a church made of trees – let’s do that’”.

Throughout its history, while still popular here at home, likely most visitors to the church and surrounding property have been from overseas.

Much of that can be attributed to the power of social media, Barry said – with traditionally, high numbers of visitors having made their way here from Australia, The Philippines and China.

“Oh yes, I’d say there would be about 20 weddings here each year – people come from all over the world.

“I can’t really tell you how it works, but social media has been massive for me in terms of marketing and getting the word out there – one Youtube clip along has over a million views.”

Looking ahead, Barry will in fact have a hand in seeing that a legacy of sorts continues.

He recently had a visitor to his property from England, with a special purpose in mind.

“She’s looking to do a similar TreeChurch back home where she lives, so I’m using my experience with what we’ve created here to help her make what she has in mind a reality.”

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