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Published: 2014-03-25 00:00:00

Waikato Regional Council will be working with other agencies to prevent the spread of kauri dieback disease, detected in a forest just north of Whitianga.

It’s the first time the disease has been detected in the Waikato region. 

“The discovery on the Coromandel Peninsula is incredibly disappointing given the work over a number of years to keep it out of the region,” said the regional council’s biosecurity and heritage group manager, John Simmons. 

“Our focus is now on continuing to work in partnership with other agencies to contain and prevent the spread of the disease to more stands of kauri on the Coromandel Peninsula,” he said. 

The discovery was made after a landowner noticed dead trees on a ridge in the Whangapoua Forest/Hukarahi Conservation Area and spoke with a member of Kauri 2000, who then contacted the regional council. 

“One of our staff trekked to the location so we could obtain samples for testing from the base of three trees, with the results last week confirming the presence of Phytophthora taxon Agathis (PTA) or kauri dieback disease in two young trees. 

“It’s great that the landowner has been so proactive in alerting people, because it now enables the Kauri Dieback Programme to put measures in place to contain and prevent its spread,” said Mr Simmons, who is a member of the national programme’s leadership team. 

The council had already increased the amount of funding for the Kauri Dieback Programme in the 2014/15 Draft Annual Plan, from $25,000 to $72,000 a year. 

The Kauri Dieback Programme has supported the Kauri 2000 Trust’s prevention and awareness initiatives, and the regional council has also provided grants via its environmental initiatives fund. 

Mr Simmons said Kauri 2000 has “worked hard on the Coromandel Peninsula to raise awareness of the disease and steps people can take to prevent it from impacting our precious kauri forests”. 

The affected Department of Conservation forest is mainly used by hunters and today Conservation Minister Dr Nick Smith closed the area to reduce the risk of its spread and assess the extent of the disease, as well as decide on its ongoing management. 

Since 2008 Tāngata Whenua, the Ministry for Primary Industries, Department of Conservation, Auckland Council and Northland, Waikato and Bay of Plenty regional councils have joined forces in a coordinated programme to manage this disease. Scientists are conducting research to increase our knowledge of how the disease spreads and develop effective control methods. Work is also going into improving track construction, drainage and other man-made influences that will help reduce the spread of the disease. 

In the meantime, when in any kauri forests tourists, hunters, trappers, trampers, runners, bikers and walkers are encouraged to:

  • make sure shoes, tyres and equipment are cleaned to remove all visible soil and plant material before AND after visiting kauri forest
  • stay on the track and off kauri roots
  • keep dogs on a leash at all times. 

About kauri dieback 

Kauri dieback is caused by a microscopic fungus-like organism called Phytophthora “taxon Agathis” (PTA) which is spread through microscopic spores in soil and water. 

This disease infects kauri roots and damages the tissues that carry nutrients and water within the tree. This basically starves the tree to death. Symptoms include yellowing leaves, canopy thinning, dead branches and bleeding gum at the base of the trunk. Nearly all infected trees die. More information on kauri dieback is available at www.kauridieback.co.nz