Red Alert

Posts Tagged ‘Waitakere Ranges’

Resolve is building to save our trees

Posted by on March 1st, 2013

 

Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents Association public meeting, 21 February 2013.

Resolve is really building in West Auckland to stop National’s chainsaw massacre in the Waitakere Ranges.

Te Atatū Labour MP Phil Twyford, Labour’s Environment spokesperson Maryan Street, Councillors, Local Board representatives and ratepayers groups are all backing the community’s determination to save our trees – which together we surely will.

Following my earlier post I’ve had a few requests for copies of the speech I gave at the recent local meeting to save our trees. So I’ve popped it on my website here.

David Cunliffe’s speech to the Titirangi Ratepayers and Residents Association – Saving our trees (again) – 21 February 2013

Here’s wishing Red Alert readers the chance to enjoy some of New Zealand’s great outdoors with family and friends this weekend.


It’s a wrap

Posted by on January 19th, 2013

We made it to the end. 77 km. Wowed by the Waitaks. The Hillary Trail is the equal of almost any tramp I can think of.  The bush, the beaches, and the to-die-for coastal views, including today’s final cliff top walk from Bethells to Muriwai.

We have looked at a lot of kauri trees. Some magnificent. Some beautiful. Too many diseased and dying.

We have seen the future for the northern bush if we don’t get to grips with kauri dieback and it ain’t pretty.

For me the heroes of the last week have been the scientists who have walked with us, explaining their work and what is known and not known.

I share their view that if we don’t get a better understanding of the disease we don’t stand a chance of stopping it.

But I’m a politician. I see political will as the scarce commodity here. Unless this Government commits funding to continue the work of the kauri dieback programme, then the kauri doesn’t stand a chance.

To get them to that point we have to make them understand that while it is not a threat to pine trees nor kiwifruit, phytophthora taxon agathis is killing the kauri and although it might be hard to put a dollar value on that, it is nevertheless something New Zealanders care deeply about.

More to come on this. I will continue to add my voice to those scientists, environmentalists, iwi, and other concerned Kiwis who won’t let this issue go.

In the meantime I want to thank all those who have walked with us, supported, reported, and helped turn a tramp into a campaign: Fred and Marlene Holloway, Ngarimu Blair, Ross Duder, Chris McBride, Viv van der Wal, Lika, Joseph, Jasper, Jack and Jake, Ian Horner, Ellena Hough, Stacey Hill, Nick Waipara, Simon Randall, Bruce Burns, Sarah Wyse, Monique Wheat, Marnie and Alison at Whatipu Lodge, Lindy Harvey, Cheryl Krull, Cr Sandra Coney, Neville Winter and Debi Jacka from Piha Surf Club, Sir Bob Harvey, John Edgar, Kubi Witten-Hannah, Ted Scott, Karekare Surf Club, Stephen Bell and all the western Rangers, Waitangi Woods, Grant Hewison, Tracy Dalton, Alistair Hall, Jim Wheeler, Moana Maniapoto and Toby Mills, Barb Erin and Ian from Muriwai, John Chapman, my assistant Mels Barton who was the first person to tell me about kauri dieback, my son Harry, niece Manu and her friend Sarah who walked with me, and my wife Jo for doing logistics and generally being wonderful.

 


The future…if we don’t act

Posted by on January 18th, 2013

Day 4 of the Hillary Trail and we walk up the Maungaroa Ridge which sits above Piha. I’m with Dr Nick Waipara who is Auckland Council’s chief scientist on biosecurity matters. Nick is one of the key figures in the fight against kauri dieback and has brought me here to show  me the site where he and others first identified the disease.

The well being I feel from a great lunch at the surf club and a classic white water swim at Piha drains away as we walk through this stand of dead and dying trees. It is a kauri graveyard. The pathogen has cut a swathe along the ridge, infecting and killing 100 year old rickers and 10 year old saplings.

The forest floor is cluttered with fallen diseased trunks. Ghost trees silhouette against the sky.

We are looking at the future.

Unless we can find a way of stopping the disease in its tracks this is what the kauri forests will all come to look like.


Dr Nick Waipara tell us why the Maungaroa Ridge site is so important.

My take on how I felt on top of Maugaroa Ridge.

Day 4 – Set off from Karekare with amazing cliff top views as we head to Piha. The Piha Surf Club welcomed us with a slap up lunch (thanks Neville) which we shared with journalist James Ireland, Auckland Councillor Sandra Coney who is a great fighter for the Waitakeres, and Cheryl Krull from Auckland Uni whose PhD included work on how pigs are spreading dieback in the ranges. After the side trip to Maungaroa, we then walked through a stunning nikau forest and up to the Anawhata Craw campground.

Day 5 – Joined by Waitangi Woods the lead iwi rep on the kauri dieback programme, Stacey Hill who does comms and public engagement for the programme, my mate Tracy Dalton, my assistant Mels Barton, my niece Manu and her friend Sarah, and Alistair Hall the Editor of Wilderness magazine. An easy gentle walk across undulating country, regenerating forest with quite a few young and mostly healthy kauri, although also some dead and diseased along the ridge. Highlight was a swim in the waterfall and pools near Lake Wainamu. Destination Te Henga, Bethells Beach. Tomorrow the final leg through to Muriwai.


What we don’t know

Posted by on January 14th, 2013

 

Phil Twyford Hillary Trail day 1

Phil Twyford, Simon Randall and Ngarimu Blair setting off on the Hillary Trail

Walking the first leg of the Hillary Trail today between Arataki Visitor Centre and Huia, I was struck by how little we know about Phytophthera taxon agathis, the pathogen that is killing kauri trees.

I can recite what we don’t know: we don’t know where it came from, we don’t know when it arrived, we don’t know exactly how it kills trees and we don’t know how to fight it.

A group of half a dozen scientists have been working on the disease for the past few years with funding support from government. A handful of scientists trying to deal with a largely unknown organism that is wiping out one of New Zealand’s most iconic species.

Most of the paltry $6 million spent over the last five years went on putting up signs and encouraging trampers to scrub the bottom of their boots, which is important to do, but if this was a biosecurity threat to our kiwifruit or pine plantations (PSA or painted apple moth) then you can bet ten times that amount would have been invested in the science.

Only science has any chance of saving the kauri.

It is important that we try to understand the disease, and what we can do about it. Plant pathologists like Ian Horner and Ellena Hough were out today in the bush above Huia monitoring whether kauri infected with PTA respond to having phosphite injected into their trunks.

Horner and Hough have day jobs with Plant and Food trying to save the kiwifruit industry from PSA. Saving kauri is a sideline for them, and today they are testing whether the phosphite they injected into 50-100 year old sick kauri a year ago has had any positive effect. It is an approach that works well with avocado trees infected with a similar pathogen to the one that is plaguing kauri.

Early results are inconclusive, but Horner concedes that even in the best case scenario, injecting phosphite is not a fix. Any beneficial effect would be temporary, only as long as the phosphite remained in the tree’s system. It might help save an iconic tree, or one treasured by a private landowner, but it is not going to save our forests.

The research must go on. The Government’s lack of commitment to extending the funding for the kauri dieback work beyond mid-2014 puts a question mark over this vital work. It is only a few million dollars a year. The survival of kauri as a species is at stake.

It has been a great start to the Hillary Trail. We had a send off from friends, park rangers and residents of the Waitakeres, with a karakia by kaumatua Fred Holloway. Thanks to my co-walkers Ngarimu Blair of Ngati Whatua, Ross Duder of Friends of Regional Parks and Simon Randall local body politician who did his Masters on Phytophtheras in the Waitakere Ranges.

Tomorrow we walk to Whatipu.

Hillary Trail send off

Send-off at Arataki

Ian Horner

Scientist Ian Horner injecting phosphite into kauri at Huia


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?