Kauri Dieback Disease: Help protect our kings of our forest

Kauri dieback disease is having a devastating effect on our giants of the forest. It is a disease that currently has no known cure and no proven method to prevent its spread.

Thinning canopy of kauri trees, Piha, Auckland

Thinning canopy of kauri trees, Piha, Auckland

For the past  30 years, the disease has existed on Great Barrier island off the coast of Auckland however it has recently spread to the mainland, and can now be found on public and private land throughout Auckland and Northland - in the forest plantations of Omahuta, Glenbervie and Russell in Northland, on public land at Okura, Albany and Pakiri, in the Trounson Kauri Park and Waipoua Forest Park in Northland. In 2012 it was detected on the Coromandel Peninsula.

Kauri dieback is caused by Phytophthora agathidicida – a microscopic spore in the soil that attacks the roots and trunk of kauri, damaging the tissues that carry nutrients within the tree so that they starve to death. The disease is spread from the soil to the roots of trees, making it easily transmissible. Humans are the main way the disease spreads.

The only way we can help is by stopping the spread of the disease from infected trees to healthy trees. The disease can be carried in soil on your footwear, when walking near kauri trees and on the feet and the guts of animals.

How to spot Kauri dieback disease 

Look our for Kauri trees with -

Kauri bleeding gum

Kauri bleeding gum

  • Yellow leaves
  • Dead branches
  • Thinning canopy
  • Bleeding gum (pictured) at the base of the tree, which spreads around the trunk to form a collar

 

 

How can you avoid spreading the disease - individuals

  • Don’t walk on kauri tree roots
  • Stay on defined tracks
  • Scrub any soil and mud off your footwear before and after you visit any kauri forest and use cleaning solutions
  • Keep your dog on a leash so it doesn’t walk on kauri roots
  • Fence livestock out of kauri forests and eradicate wild pigs
  • Report suspected infected trees to the Kauri Dieback Management Team: 0800 NZ Kauri   

How can you avoid spreading the disease - conservation groups

  • Build boardwalks around areas with kauri
  • Continue with pest control - pests can spread kauri dieback disease
  • Try to divert baitlines away from kauri
  • Avoid undertaking conservation work when the ground is muddy
  • If you have infected kauri, consider closing and diverting tracks

 

Kauri ecosystems

Ecosystems have evolved to live on and around kauri. For example, growing kauri creates a type of soil (kauri podzol) that only specialised plants can survive in. These species could become extinct if enough kauri die.

What is being done about this major biosecurity issue? 

Since 2009 a national Kauri Dieback Programme managed by the Ministry for Primary Industries has been tasked with "Keeping Kauri Standing". This is a multi-agency response that aims to stop its spread through board-walks, boot-cleaning stations, public awareness and education. It includes regional and local councils and DoC. In 2012 this programme was given $26 million to tackle the disease.

Forest & Bird believes the Ministry for Primary Industries is failing to do its job of raising awareness of the disease, stopping its spread and finding a cure. We are currently running a campaign to make urgent and drastic changes to the way the programme is run.

Reports released in 2017 by Auckland Council show the alarming spread of the disease. The average number of trees infected across the entire Waitakere Ranges is 19% (more than doubled from 8% five years ago) the infection in areas where kauri dominates is actually affecting between 33% and 58% of trees.  You can read the Waitakere Ranges Kauri Dieback report here

Forest & Bird are supporting the call for temporary closure of the Waitakere Ranges. The situation for kauri there is so dire that urgent action must take place, or we risk them becomign extinct in the local area within our lifetime.You can sign the petition here.

What is Forest & Bird doing? 

Forest & Bird has joined with other environmental groups to call for urgent and unified action or we believe kauri will become extinct in our lifetime. Read our media release from August 2017 here.

Many branches including Forest & Bird’s North Shore and Waitäkere branches voluntarily maintain cleaning stations on Auckland Council reserves in their areas.

At Forest & Bird’s Ark in the Park project some pest control lines have been rerouted to avoid high priority kauri trees. And volunteers try not to go out into the bush when it is really muddy and the risk of spreading the disease is greater.

In the Coromandel, members have erected information boards around tracks and branch committee members from Waihi and Mercury bay sit on a stakeholders board to address ways to prevent the spread of the disease. 

 

To see where kauri dieback has spread see here