Red Alert

Does Tane Mahuta need to keel over and die?

Posted by on January 14th, 2013

Over the next six days I am walking the Hillary Trail, 70 km through Auckland’s Waitakere Ranges. I have wanted to do it for a long time but it is more than just a summer tramp. I am doing it now to raise awareness of the disease that is killing one of our most cherished species, the kauri.

The killer is PTA phytophthora taxon agathis a.k.a. kauri dieback.  Eleven percent of the kauri in the Waitakeres are dead or dying because of it, although the number is probably much higher because the disease has a long incubation period with no symptoms. The disease is spreading and the trees in the Waipoua and Trounson parks in Northland are so badly infected the proposal for a kauri national park in the north has been scuppered.

Scientists I have spoken to say that unless progress is made managing or stopping the disease then it is not too much of a stretch to say the species could be extinct within decades.

Which makes it all the more remarkable that there is a big question mark over continued funding for this work.

The scientific research, and the public awareness programme which encourages walkers to scrub and spray their boots at stations on the tracks, has cost about $6 million over the last five years. That funding runs out mid-2014, and the Ministry of Primary Industries who funded most of it, now say they will not take another budget bid to Cabinet. (See TV3’s report here.)

So do they want Councils to fund it? Should we run a cake stall? I am staggered the Government would spend $85 million fighting painted apple moth because it was a threat to pine trees but can’t find a few million bucks to save the kauri.

Does Tane Mahuta need to keel over and die before they take this disease seriously?

As I walk the Hillary Trail over the next few days with scientists and researchers and park rangers who are working on this crisis, I expect it will be bitter sweet. The Hillary Trail is a spectacular walk but instead of stopping to admire the stunning kauri that are a feature of the Waitakeres, we are likely to be stopping to examine dead and dying kauri, and checking the extent of the disease’s spread.

I will be posting updates here and on facebook and twitter, and doing everything I can to highlight the need for the Government to commit the funding needed to continue the scientific research and management of the disease.

Our generation doesn’t want the kauri to die out on our watch, does it?

10 Responses to “Does Tane Mahuta need to keel over and die?”

  1. Bridget Marsh says:

    Thank you Phil for picking this. we noticed kauri die back this weekend on Great Barrier as well.
    The trail is one of the best tramps in NZ – take care on the clay!

  2. bbfloyd says:

    To be a part of the generation that was will be held responsible for standing by, and letting our “clean & green” ecosystem fall nto terminal decay….. Yeah that’s the sort of legacy we really can be proud of….

    Make as much noise about this as you can Chris… The only way johnny sparkles, and his merry pranksters will take this seriously is if it becomes an issue of “public importance” to a large enough section of the population…

    Then they will surely find a way to gain pr points, with the co-operation the “fourth estate”, by committing money to this cause…

    They will probably need watching to make sure they don’t quietly shift that money elsewhere once the “furore” has died down, but that is to be expected from such people as inhabit the current raiding party…..

    In short… Smack them on the nose repearedly on this, and when they try to turn away… bite them on the b*m…You’ve got open slather on this one to attack them… They have no adequate defense….

  3. mickysavage says:

    This is a very important issue and if the worst scenario occurs PTA could be a species threatening disease. No Kauri has yet shown any resilience to PTA. I am astounded that the Government should refuse to provide funding for the protection of what is an iconic species of tree.

    Can anyone imagine what the Waitakere Ranges would be like without Kauri?

    Good initiative Phil.

  4. sweetd says:

    Its good to be on holiday isn’t it Phil.

  5. Fortran says:

    Like humans do not trees have a natural life and possibly this tree has reached that point ?

  6. Anne says:

    MPs are not allowed holidays? Presume you never take a holiday?

    Oh the stupid. Quite sad really. Unbelievably so!!

  7. Anne says:

    I should like to know why my comment @ Jan 14, 7:47pm has gone into moderation?

  8. Clare Curran says:

    I don’t know: Clare

  9. Anne says:

    Thanks for a quick response Clare. A technical hitch…

  10. Kyle Smith says:

    Born and raised near Dargaville, Tane Mahuta is very close to many locals hearts. The effects of PTA is only to evident when you drive from either the northern or southern ends of the Waipoua Forest. As an iconic part of New Zealand many overseas people that i have met say this is one of the highlights of their trip. The people that I meet who have not been to New Zealand obviously have this spot top of their list.

    It would be a shame to see these trees slowly disappear one by one. This is one of New New Zealand’s greatest icons.

    Investment, research and a plan of attack is very much needed here.


    Kyle Smith