With less than 1% of our original kauri forest remaining due to an intensive history of logging and exploitation, the residents of Puhoi can be considered privileged to have these kings of the forest in their very own back yards. In spite of the fact that kauri stands are regenerating in many areas throughout the North Island, these forests now face a new threat: kauri dieback disease.
Kauri dieback is a fungus-like disease that is specific to New Zealand kauri, having killed thousands of trees already and putting the entire species at risk. While much is still to be learned about this disease, the movement of soil via footwear, gear and machinery has been identified as a major cause of its spread throughout the North Island. Microscopic spores in the soil infect the roots and damage the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree, effectively starving it to death. If you’re fortunate enough to have never seen a sick or dying kauri, let me assure you it’s a very sorry sight. Symptoms include yellowing leaves, canopy thinning, dead branches and bleeding gum at the base of the trunk.
Kauri dieback has been found in the Waitakere Ranges Regional Park, on private land throughout the Auckland region, in the forest plantations of Omahuta, Glenbervie and Russell in Northland, Department of Conservation reserves at Okura, Albany, Pakiri, Great Barrier, Trounson Kauri Park and Waipoua Forest in Northland, home of our most iconic kauri – Tane Mahuta.
As a new disease to science in 2008, no official treatments or control tools have been available to manage this disease to date. Research is underway investigating how to slow the spread and control areas of infection. Containment is the key to protecting our healthy kauri forests for future generations. We are doing everything we can to win the war and protect this national treasure. To lose kauri would be an absolute tragedy.
It’s not all doom and gloom however, many healthy stands of kauri can still be found on both private and public land throughout Auckland including the Puhoi area where the disease has not been detected at this stage. We need to work together to protect these healthy areas.
To protect your own slice of paradise, a few simple measures can be taken to keep your kauri disease free, with the key being soil removal. To stop the spread of this disease give your boots and any equipment a good scrub to remove soil both before and after spending time in kauri forests. Please help spread the word about kauri dieback by telling others – we need to raise awareness to ensure the disease is contained.
The Auckland Council can provide support to landowners by way of funding fencing to protect kauri and associated native vegetation from stock movement and grazing. For further information on this and how you can protect your kauri, visit www.kauridieback.co.nz. Alternatively if you have any concerns about your trees please call our Kauri Dieback Hotline (0800 NZ KAURI) to arrange a site visit from one of our biosecurity inspectors.
by Jacqui Wairepo