Written By: - Date published: 9:00 am, March 29th, 2014 - 34 comments
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It has been announced that the Kauri killer disease Kauri Dieback, or Phytophthora Taxon Agathis to use its scientific name, has now been spread to the Coromandel. The prospects of Kauri becoming extinct have become greater.
It has infected many Kauri out west and throughout much of Northland. Not a great deal is known about the disease but its effects are clear. It is believed to be spread by people’s shoes or by feral pigs or other animals. It causes yellowing leaves, thinning canopy, dead branches, and lesions that bleed resin and eventually cause the death of an infected tree.
No Kauri has been found which is immune to the disease. It appears that once infected a tree faces a gradual but inevitable death caused by the disease’s effects.
The implications are horrendous, involving the possible extinction of Kauri and the weakening of the forest as a whole as an integral part of the forest disappears. Kauri provide canopy protection and also strengthen the forest against the effects of wind. Kauri has been described as providing the backbone to the Waitakere forest.
Five years ago Central and Local Government agreed on joint action to address the disease which included scientific research funded by the different agencies. As part of this action Auckland Council and Department of Conservation officers and scientists have been researching the disease and what can be done to save Kauri. They have done sterling work and their research and efforts to deal with the disease already show results.
Experiments have been in two areas, the use of phosphoric acid injected into trees to arrest the effects of the disease and the assessment of holistic and alternative methods to improve kauri health and/or to control PTA as well as using natural enemies of phytophthoras that lessen its effects.
Field trials are producing positive results. But this work has to continue to ascertain its effectiveness and cutting funding would pretty well waste all the results from the research.
MAF funding of $4.5 million used primarily for the research was for a five year period from 2009 to 2014. Despite a request for continued funding the Government decided that no further bid would be considered and the research would finish. The 2013 budget confirmed the cut to the research funding. It was willing to spend $3 million saving Wanganui Collegiate but nothing on saving Kauri.
The final funding of $335k is due to be spent in the 2013/14 year and there is no further money. All of this work faces the chop.
This is very disappointing. When the likes of Tane Mahuta are facing extinction and with there being some success with the techniques being used you would expect the Government at least try and do something.
Television New Zealand reported on the issue recently.
Conservation Minister Nick Smith says it’s a blow to the prevention programme and that to date it was presumed that the Coromandel forest was free of the disease.
“We have made bids for additional funding in the budget,” he says.
“Those budget decisions are yet to be determined but I’m absolutely confident along with the Minister for Primary Industries that the Government will be stepping up its endeavours to stop Kauri die back ruining these very precious iconic trees.”
The Herald also reported on Smith’s comments. Referring to the Keep Kauri Standing programme Smith is reported as follows:
“This programme, set up in 2009, was initially established through to June 2014,” Dr Smith said.
It was reviewed last year and we were planning a ramping-up of this work in the next financial year prior to this discovery.
This work will now need to be brought forward with urgency.”
Smith is being cute with the facts in the extreme, within a couple of hairs breaths of telling a lie. It was his Government that decided to no longer fund research and he is now saying that his department is seeking “additional funding” for prevention and they were “planning a ramping-up of this work”.
The reality is that National is willing to let Kauri face extinction. It will be a major local issue for the Helensville electorate this year the local Member of Parliament, one John Phillip Key, has better be ready to explain why this Government has been prepared to do nothing.