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Hackfalls’ Bob Berry dies at 102

The creator of Hackfalls Arboretum at Tiniroto, Robert (Bob) Berry, died in Gisborne late on Thursday afternoon at the age of 102.

Hackfalls has about 3500 different species of trees and a collection of oaks reputed to be the largest in the Southern Hemisphere.

The land was acquired in 1889 by the Whyte family, Scottish immigrants who called the property Abbotsford.

The Berry family bought Abbotsford in 1916.

Bob Berry was born in June that year and grew up to be a farmer. He inherited Abbotsford about 1950. Mr Berry developed a special interest in trees for their botanical features and beauty, and concentrated on growing oak trees, particularly Mexican oaks.

The property’s name was changed to Hackfalls in 1984 when Mr Berry’s niece Diane Playle and her husband Kevin bought into and ran the stock side of the station. The name came from Hackfalls Wood, the place in Yorkshire where the original Berry family had lived.

Mr Berry was then free to concentrate on the arboretum. In 1990 he married Lady Anne Palmer, an English horticulturalist who established Rosemoor Garden in Devon.

Lady Anne’s expertise proved invaluable at Hackfalls as she extended the homestead garden and introduced new plants.

In 1993, Hackfalls Arboretum was made a charitable trust. Its rare trees and shrubs grow across 50 hectares.

Mr Berry is survived by his wife, Lady Anne.

Full obituary to follow later.

Hackfalls Arboretum founder Bob Berry celebrated his 102nd birthday in June with his wife Lady Anne Berry, family and friends at the Kiri Te Kanawa retirement village. Picture by Liam Clayton