Volunteer efforts to save the Coromandel’s kauri from PTA have taken a major step forward with the appointment of Tairua’s Alison Smith as the new Coromandel Kauri Dieback Forum co-ordinator.
The appointment follows last year’s Forum workshops in which local communities around the Peninsula worked together to identify ways to limit the impact of kauri dieback disease (Phytophthera taxon agathis).
Alison will help set up, support and co-ordinate community-led programmes to contain the spread of kauri dieback disease in the Coromandel area.
“We are extremely grateful to the Department of Conservation for the funding which has made this possible,” says interim Forum chair Vivienne McLean. “We are confident that Alison’s communications expertise and experience in working with community groups, plus her energy and creative thinking, will enable the Forum to make significant progress from now on. Setting up and supporting local groups will be a top priority, and over the next six months she will be establishing contact and working with schools, developing closer relationships with local iwi and helping us organise our next forum, among other work.”
Kauri dieback disease was first confirmed on the Peninsula last March in the Hukarahi Reserve near Whitianga, and infected sites have since been identified in the Whangapoua catchment. Sites reported by locals in other parts of the Peninsula are currently being investigated.
The Forum, an independent volunteer organisation working alongside the Kauri Dieback Management Programme, Department of Conservation, and the Thames Coromandel District and Waikato Regional Councils, believes it will take a combination of individual effort and a collective rallying of communities to stop further loss of this iconic species.
“It could be seen as a very daunting task – given what our kauri face – but local communities are proving to be very passionate about protecting their kauri and the Forum is just one component in growing network of individuals, organisations and agencies committed to working together to save this iconic species,” says Alison.
“In my previous roles with TCDC and Waikato Regional Council I’ve learned how very lucky we are on the Coromandel to have our networks of residents who generously give their time and energy to volunteering, so it is a real honour to be in this role.”
“We want to hear from anyone who would like to help, whether with ideas or practical actions out in the bush. Every individual can play a vital role in protecting kauri, at work and at play, by helping to spread the word and by observing the proper hygiene procedures.”
“The message is actually pretty simple. Kauri dieback disease is spread through soil movement, so cleanliness is the key, whether you’re tramping, mountain biking, hunting, undertaking pest control, fencing or property development. Scrub your boots, walking poles and any equipment or machinery completely free of soil before and after going into the bush, every time. If you would like to get more involved, contact me about becoming a kauri champion and be part of the great group of people that make up the Coromandel Kauri Dieback Forum,” says Alison.
Kauri dieback disease kills kauri of all sizes and ages, and there is currently no known cure. New Zealand has only around 1 percent of its kauri remaining, which makes efforts to reduce the threat from the microscopic Phytophthora taxon Agathis (or PTA ) disease even more urgent.
Kauri Dieback Programme Relationship Manager Ian Mitchell says the support of both the kauri dieback programme partners and the community is vital for managing PTA spread.
“Kauri is a taonga and incredibly important to New Zealanders and all the programme partners are fully committed to managing the spread of this disease,” says Ian. He says engagement with tangata whenua is also crucial. All tāngata whenua groups across Coromandel and Hauraki are being approached to become active partners in the Forum.
Conservation Minister Maggie Barry has today announced that the 40 ha Albany Scenic Reserve will be closed until further notice following the discovery of phytopthera taxon agathis (PTA) spores in the reserve. PTA is the pathogen that causes kauri dieback disease, and has already cause kauri tree deaths in parts of the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, in Waipoua, and on Great Barrier Island.
“Closing the reserve was not a decision I took lightly, but as we go into winter the threat posed to our majestic kauri by dieback requires decisive action,” Ms Barry said in a statement.
“The risk of someone unwittingly spreading the disease from Albany to healthy trees is simply too great to be ignored.”
Her decision raises the prospect of other parts of the DOC estate being closed, which the Minister says is a possibility. This includes most of the remnant kaur forest areas in Northland and the Coromandel.
The Labour Party’s Auckland Issues spokesman, Phil Goff has declared the Party’s intention to legislate to protect trees of significance. The plan follows widespread public concern over the attempt to fell a mature kauri tree in Titirangi, West Auckland for development The Labour Party is pledging to introduce a bill to save heritage trees like the kauri in Auckland that was spared after protesters put a halt to developers’ felling plans.
Labour would introduce a member’s or local bill once it had done more consultation on how heritage trees should be “defined and best protected”, Auckland issues spokesman Phil Goff said.
The Auckland City Council recently approved the felling of a 500-year-old kauri on private land in the West Auckland suburb of Titirangi.
According to data released late last year by the Department of Conservation, tree deaths caused by possums in Northland increased dramatically between 2010 and 2012. DOC has estimated tree deaths during that period are up by 150%.
With major cuts to DOC Northland conservancy budgets and a sharp reduction in manpower in the North, the department also reports that its efforts to control possums have been compromised and are failing.
DOc is now committed to engaging local communities in its efforts at some form of improved protection for valuable kauri forest in the region. At Warawara, North Hokianga, the department entered an agreement in 2011 with iwi, the Northland Regional Council, DoC, community groups, land-owners and ten local marae under the banner of the Warawara Komiti Kaitiaki [Warawara Guardians Committee]. That group has now embarked on a 5 year programme of protection for 6,800 ha of the 13,300 ha Warawara Forest.
The protester who climbed the large kauri tree in Titirangi to prevent it being felled has ended his protest after the developers responsible say they will not cut the tree down following widespread public and political criticism. However, the developers who own the site on which the tree lives, may still fell it if they are not paid compensation for the losses sustained by the tree’s survival.
Deputy Mayor Penny Hulse says the council is not going to buy the land, and the director general of the Department of Conservation, Lou Sanson has also declared his department is not in a position to pay for just one tree.
The decision to fell the established tree to build a house on the site has provided oxygen to the cause of kauri protection, especially as it was originally intended to chop it down a day after a council organised save the kauri promotion in the neighbourhood.