Kauri Dieback Disease: Help protect our kings of our forest

Kauri dieback disease is having a devastating effect on our giants of the forest and the ecosystem that relies on them. It is a disease that currently has no known cure and no proven method to prevent its spread. It is considered to be the biggest biosecurity threat to our native wildlife.

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 extensively on public and private land throughout Auckland and 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.

Visit the Waitakere Rahui website for a comprehensive Science FAQ on Kauri Dieback, written by leading experts on the disease.

The best way to stop the spread of the disease is to AVOID ALL AREAS WITH KAURI.

This is a drastic move that unfortunately must be adhered to until essential upgrades are made to tracks, and research has been completed that will tell us what kills the spores. Tracks must be 'dry' - that is, they should stop any contact with mud or transference of mud.

The disease can be carried in soil on your footwear, walking sticks and clothing as well as on the paws of dogs being walked. Even a tiny speck of contaminated mud is enough to transfer the disease and infect a tree. 

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

  • Avoid all areas with kauri
  • If this is not possible, stay on defined 'dry' tracks and scrub every single speck of 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 and only walk on dry tracks
  • 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

  • Close or divert all reserves with kauri to the public (unless they have tracks that are upgraded and 'dry' to stop any contact with mud)
  • Build boardwalks around areas with kauri
  • Continue with pest control and eradicate pigs - after humans, pigs are the biggest cause of the spread of kauri dieback disease
  • Divert baitlines away from kauri
  • Avoid undertaking conservation work when the ground is muddy

 

Kauri dieback does not just affect kauri 

Kauri are a keystone species and create a unique acidic soil type called a kauri podsol. At least 17 other species depend entirely on kauri and this soil type in order to survive so if we lose kauri, we will lose all these species too.

Recent studies are also now showing that other native plant species are being affected by the disease. Studies from Auckland University have found that the disease affects tanekaha and could affect many more species - read more.

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 try and force 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  joined with other environmental groups The Tree Council, The Waitakere Ranges Protection Society and Friends of Regional Parks 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

In December 2017, we supported a rāhui placed on the Waitakere Ranges by local iwi Te Kawerau a Maki and worked with media to gain coverage and understanding of this important issue. You can read more about this campaign to "Respect the Rahui" in our blog here.

Later that month, the government announced they would strengthen efforts to protect kauri by developing a National Pest Management Plan for combating the disease. Forest & Bird felt this was long overdue and hoped to see urgent action before thousands more people tramped through kaurilands spreading the disease in the summer months - read more in our press release

In  April 2018, after months of lobbying, Auckland Council voted to close all forested tracks within the Waitakere Ranges that do not have suitable tracks. Although this was an exciting development, Forest & BIrd is still lobbying for an improvement in the way the biosecurity programme is being run, and urgent closure of all kauri walking tracks.

 

At a branch level, Forest & Bird has been involved in the fight to stop kauri dieback disease for many years, particularly in areas where the disease is affecting local native bush. For example the North Shore, Hauraki Islands and Waitakere branches voluntarily maintain cleaning stations on Auckland Council reserves in their areas and lobby for improved tracks. 

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