Urgent Action Required to Save Waitākere Kauri

19 December 2017   |   Press Release

The Tree Council and the Waitākere Ranges Protection Society are horrified, but not surprised, to read the latest monitoring figures from Auckland Council’s recent survey of kauri dieback infection in the Waitākere Ranges.

The numbers are even worse than the Council is admitting in today’s press release. While the average number of trees infected across the entireWaitākere Ranges may be 19% (up from 8% 5 years ago) the infection in areas where kauri dominates is actually affecting between 33% and 58% of trees. Local extinction of kauri in areas like Piha, where the infection is worst, is highly likely unless urgent action is taken now. It is clear the infection is being spread by people, rather than wild animals, as the majority of the infection is along the track network and worst in the areas with heaviest foot traffic. Compliance by people with phytosanitary measures to scrub and spray shoes, dog feet, tyres and equipment is low and falling.

The Tree Council and WRPS call on Auckland Council to implement an urgent programme of phosphite treatment for infected trees on public land immediately. The research using this chemical to boost the immune response of trees and enable them to fight the disease has shown great promise to date.

“We cannot afford to wait any longer” says The Tree Council’s Secretary Dr Mels Barton.

“Any delay in treating infected trees now will mean that we lose this species locally because all these infected trees will die. The risk of over-dosing and possibly killing some trees while saving others is worth taking in our view to save this species in the Waitākeres. We don’t want to imagine a future without kauri in the Ranges.”

Waitākere Ranges Protection Society President John Edgar agrees “kauri are a taonga and had survived the destructive logging of the Waitākere Ranges that removed an entire forest and were recovering well. It is devastating to think that we may lose them again because of a disease we are carrying on our boots. The Society urges Auckland Council to begin phosphite treatment immediately and work with the community to save our forest again for future generations.”

Over recent years Auckland Council has cut the budget for Biosecurity work on kauri dieback and lost key staff. The Tree Council and WRPS considers that there is now an urgent requirement for significant investment by Council and Government because delays will result in localised extinction of kauri in theWaitākere Ranges.

John Edgar says “WRPS believes that more tracks should be closed to prevent further spread and there needs to be increased investment in re-routing and improving tracks to keep trampers off kauri roots, plus the design of the scrubbing stations needs to be significantly improved to make avoidance of the disinfection process extremely difficult.”

“We are glad to see Auckland Council plans to have staff on the cleaning stations as we believe this is the only way to educate the public on how important it is that they comply with the requirements. No one wants to kill our kauri but there is a lot of disbelief in the community that people are responsible for the spread and this needs to be challenged to help everyone understand that they can do their bit to help and it is worth the effort.”