Kauri dieback: the biggest access issue in 100 years

2016 CEO Eric Pyle 3

21/12/2017 9:20am

By Eric Pyle, Chief Executive

I vividly remember my first proper encounter with kauri in Trounson Kauri Park. I had seen the odd tree here and there in parks around New Zealand, but I was not prepared for the enormity of the kauri as they emerged during my walk through the forest.

Like the kiwi, another New Zealand icon, kauri could now be destined for extinction without massive human intervention. With kiwi, stoats kill around 95% of chicks in untrapped areas. With kauri, the threat is a microscopic organism called phytophthora agathidicida, but better known as kauri dieback.

Kauri dieback is spread when animals carry it from one tree to another – this includes pigs, but predominantly it is humans who spread it within and between forests. This is serious.

Because of the threat of kauri dieback, te Kawerau a Maki recently placed a rāhui, or temporary prohibition on access, on the Waitākere Ranges, over which they hold mana whenua status. Auckland Council supports the rāhui in principle and has closed many tracks, but has not fully prohibited access to the Ranges.

With human activity as the main way that kauri dieback is spreading between kauri stands, a strong argument can be made that to prevent extinction people need to be kept out of kauri forests. The implications for access to the outdoors are immense. The Waitākere Ranges alone receive some 2 million visits per year, and kauri forests in the Coromandel and Northland receive large numbers as well.

If people can’t go into kauri forests what are their other options for outdoor recreation? Where can the two million plus visits each year to kauri forests be shifted to? What additional infrastructure is needed? What does a social and communications programme look like to get the shift in use of the outdoors?

These are big questions that will take some time to answer. The Commission is starting work with Auckland Council and other partners to look at these.

Have a wonderful Christmas – New Year break. Enjoy New Zealand’s wonderful environment but please, if you’re in the northern North Island, choose kauri-safe outdoor opportunities and help protect our precious trees.

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