Monique Wheat & Simon Randall spraying trigene disinfectant. Photo: Harry Twyford
Head of Biosecurity at Auckland Council Jack Craw is one of the key figures in the hardy band of scientists, rangers and council workers leading the fight against kauri dieback. He describes kauri dieback as the HIV/AIDS of the tree world.
It might sound odd at first to compare AIDS to a disease that is killing trees but it is not a bad analogy. First, there is no known cure. Second, the best way to stop the spread of the disease is to change our behaviours that act as the disease vector.
The lethal spores of PTA (phytophthora taxon agathis) are spread in the soil. We humans, carrying infected soil on our tramping boots, are the main vector.
So one of the main approaches of the disease management work has been to get walkers to scrub the soles of their boots, and spray them with a disinfectant called trigene, at special stations set up throughout the affected areas.
Alarmingly it has been an uphill battle to get people to follow the signs and scrub and spray. Video cameras at the stations revealed only 25% of trampers actually doing the scrub and spray routine.
Short of closing the forests, getting people to scrub and spray is the best immediate hope for saving kauri.
Day 3 – Today my son Harry and I walked with Monique Wheat, a biologist working for the kauri dieback programme and researching where in the wood PTA affects the kauri. This is important because we need to understand the risk of spreading the disease from the timber of felled infected trees.
Today we walked from Whatipu over to Pararaha Valley, stopped for a swim in the Pararaha stream, and then walked over Zion Hill to Karekare where members of the surf club met us with tea and scones. Tomorrow we walk from Karekare to Anawhata.