Forest & Bird is calling on Auckland Council to act urgently to stop kauri dieback disease spreading to Waiheke Island.
Waiheke Island is a 35 minute ferry ride from Auckland, but is free of kauri dieback disease, which has killed hundreds of kauri in the Auckland region.
Forest & Bird Auckland regional manager Nick Beveridge says the council needs to take urgent action to make sure the island stays free of the disease that was first spotted on nearby Great Barrier Island in the 1970s and has now infected about 20 percent of kauri in the Waitakere ranges.
“A million visitors a year travel to Waiheke, but the council still hasn’t got effective border controls to stop kauri dieback reaching the island,” Mr Beveridge says.
“If we lose all the kauri on the mainland, Waiheke could become the only place where these beautiful trees survive.”
People can currently drive their vehicles over infected soil in the Waitakere ranges or Northland, then drive straight onto the car ferry to Waiheke, without washing mud from their tyres.
Earthworks machinery, such as bulldozers and diggers, can also be taken from jobs in the Waitakere ranges to Waiheke Island, without infected soil being removed.
Drivers are responsible for removing mud from their vehicles and ferry companies must make sure vehicles are clean.
However, no car cleaning facilities are currently available at car ferry terminals at Wynyard Wharf or at Half Moon Bay in Auckland.
“Auckland Council hasn’t done anything to make sure people wash their cars or earthworks machinery before they drive onto the car ferry,” Mr Beveridge says.
“Something needs to be done immediately to make sure vehicles are clean before they drive onto Waiheke Island, or the consequences could be disastrous for the future of kauri.”
Hygiene stations are set up at the downtown Auckland and Waiheke passenger ferry terminals to stop people inadvertently carrying infected soil on their shoes to the island - but nobody uses them, says Mr Beveridge.
“The hygiene station on Waiheke is a huge distance away from where people buy their ferry tickets and queue for the boats, so few people seem to even see it,” he says.
“On Waiheke, there’s a small cleaning station on the side of the gangway but people walk straight past it as they get off the ferry.
“We need hygiene stations that people must walk through at the downtown Auckland passenger ferry terminal, before they go to Waiheke.”
At present, there is nothing stopping people taking soil in pot plants and potting mix that’s contaminated with kauri dieback disease to Waiheke.
“Pot plants and garden supplies shouldn’t be allowed to be taken to the island, unless it’s from a certified supplier,” says Mr Beveridge.
Auckland Council has drafted a Kauri Dieback Action Plan for Waiheke, but Mr Beveridge says many of the goals are too vague and the deadlines are too far away.
One example is the council’s plan to install hygiene stations in “strategic locations” by December this year. Mr Beveridge says the plan needs clear details about exactly what needs to go where and it needs to happen within weeks, not by the end of the year.
Forest & Bird successfully campaigned for Auckland Council to designate Waiheke as a kauri dieback exclusion zone. Now, Mr Beveridge wants to see steps taken to make the designation meaningful.
“The council needs to take action now to stop kauri dieback infecting Waiheke’s kauri trees, before it’s too late,” he says.
“If we lose kauri, we lose the ecosystems that depend on kauri for their survival.”
Here's a link to a video of Nick Beveridge talking about the issue:
For further comment, contact Nick Beveridge on 09 302 3901, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.