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Labour wants to save the Kauri

Written By: - Date published: 12:15 pm, April 13th, 2014 - 47 comments
Categories: david cunliffe, Environment, labour - Tags:

kauri dieback 2

This is an issue that I have a particular interest in.  I posted previously on how Kauri dieback disease may result in the extinction of one of the most iconic species of Waitakere’s forest. Research into the disease has been ongoing for the past five years but recently National decided not to fund ongoing research.  It said that there was no hope of eradicating the disease and that basically it was giving up.  This is an appalling decision as the research that it was funding was showing some promise and through a combination of the use of Phosphite and steps to keep the spread of the phytophora that causes the disease there was some hope of at least holding the disease at bay.

This morning David Cunliffe has announced that a future Labour Government will fund ongoing research.  The text of his speech delivered in McCahon House in Titirangi is as follows:

“As a West Auckland MP I am very aware the kauri is an important part of this place.

The Waitakere Ranges with their thousands of kauri, are a taonga.

A century ago they were milled almost to extinction. They have regenerated. But now they are under threat again.

In 2006 Peter Madison of Forest and Bird discovered trees suffering from a disease on Piha’s Maungaroa Ridge.

Now we know there is a disease called Phytophthera taxon agathis (PTA) otherwise known as Kauri Dieback that that is killing the kauri.

It is a soil borne pathogen that gets in to the roots, damages the tissues that carry the nutrients and the tree starves to death.

Once infected, trees die.

An estimated 11% of kauri in the Waitakere Ranges are infected. The disease has spread throughout the North, Great Barrier and it was recently detected in the Coromandel.

The Hunua Ranges seem to be the only significant population of trees that remains disease free.

Unless we act to stop the spread of the disease, this iconic New Zealand species could be wiped out.

If that happens the ecology of the northern bush will be changed forever.

Over the last five years a small band of scientists, iwi, Councils, biosecurity workers, and environmentalists have done tremendous work trying to learn more about the disease, find what works in stopping the spread, and make the public more aware. 

Much has been achieved but it is early days.

That five-year programme runs out in two months’ time.

And over the last 18 months we in Labour have been horrified as the National Government has given every indication that it did not see the need to continue or increase the funding for it.

Officials from the Ministry of Primary Industries were last year advising the Minister to wind back the programme, not seek any new funding, and leave the fight against kauri dieback to the Councils and the iwi.

It beggars belief that the kauri dieback programme asking for around $8 million over five years was getting the run around, when Government rightly invests tens of millions of dollars a year into biosecurity threats to our primary industries – $85 million for example on the threat painted apple moth posed to our pine plantations.

But somehow the fate of the kauri didn’t rate.

Labour has different priorities.

We rate saving the kauri as a project of national and generational significance.

Which is why today I am announcing a $20 million ten-year commitment to the fight against kauri dieback.

Labour will back the work of iwi, of local Councils in the North, Auckland and the Waikato, of the scientists, and the community.

We may never discover a “cure” for kauri dieback.

But we must continue the research that has been started. If we don’t, we may never understand the disease well enough to stop its spread, or limit its effect.

We know that the vectors of the disease are related to human activity – soil carried on the boots of trampers – and introduced species in the case of feral pigs.

We can do something about those things.

The combination of eradicating feral pigs, the phyto-sanitary scrub and spray stations, mapping and surveillance of the trees, and track upgrades and closures – these measures can stop the spread of the disease.

These approaches have been deployed here in the Waitakere Ranges, but they have not been implemented systematically in Waipoua and the rest of the North. Nor in the Waikato.

Which is why this announcement goes further than just rolling over the activities and funding levels of what has been done over the last five years.

We are more than doubling the money the National Government has put into this work.

With $20 million from central government, and we believe another ten can be raised from Councils and other sources, our aim is to generate $30 million so this work can be not just continued but scaled up.

Finally, I want to say that it is appropriate to be making this announcement here today at the McCahon House.

Colin McCahon, our greatest painter, chose to live here among the kauri. He drew inspiration from them. He painted them. In fact he produced more than 50 works with kauri in the title.

The kauri, as McCahon saw, is a part of who we are as New Zealanders.

Saving the species from this disease demands a serious and committed response, and Labour will deliver just that.”

47 comments on “Labour wants to save the Kauri”

  1. BM 1

    From one of your links

    But TV3 announced last night that the Government has given up on funding research because it believes that PTA cannot be eradicated. The Ministry for Primary Industries had previously spent $5 million on research but is not seeking an extension of funding.

    I’m sure the scientists at the Ministry for Primary Industries did not just decide to give up and have given it their best shot.

    Unless Cunnliffe has come into contact with new information or another group of scientists who think this virus can be stopped, he’s once again been a bit less than honest.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.1

      It’s time for your reality check:

      National Party press release authors ≠ “scientists”.

    • Disraeli Gladstone 1.2

      Cunliffe addresses the fact that a cure may not be found:

      “We may never discover a “cure” for kauri dieback.

      But we must continue the research that has been started. If we don’t, we may never understand the disease well enough to stop its spread, or limit its effect.

      We know that the vectors of the disease are related to human activity – soil carried on the boots of trampers – and introduced species in the case of feral pigs.

      We can do something about those things.

      The combination of eradicating feral pigs, the phyto-sanitary scrub and spray stations, mapping and surveillance of the trees, and track upgrades and closures – these measures can stop the spread of the disease.

      These approaches have been deployed here in the Waitakere Ranges, but they have not been implemented systematically in Waipoua and the rest of the North. Nor in the Waikato.”

    • One Anonymous Bloke 1.3

      Reality check number two:

      A cursory examination of extant research shows large areas of uncertainty; the disease was not even formally identified until 2008.

      In science, where there’s uncertainty, you do more research. Or if you’re the National Party you cut the funding with an eye to opening up future areas for property development.

    • wtl 1.4

      I’m sure the scientists at the Ministry for Primary Industries did not just decide to give up and have given it their best shot.

      Wrong. Here’s a quote from the original TV3 article:

      Scientists say the work they’ve done over the past five years is only now beginning to bear fruit.

      They’re seeking an additional $15 million for research and management of the disease – money they say would be well spent so future generations can enjoy the tree known as the giant of the forest.

      But the Ministry for Primary Industries says it won’t be taking another funding bid to Cabinet, and any future funding will come from existing Budgets.

      So the scientists are asking for an extension of the finding. But the ministry itself (i.e. management) is not making an bid for further funding from the government.

    • mickysavage 1.5


      If you read my previous post there is a lot of work that is occurring which are showing results. The use of Phosphite in particular has produced positive results.

      There is five years of research into the area and a number of dedicated scientists who will lose their ability to continue with their research. It is all out there BM. You should research before you post.

  2. Ad 2

    Excellent. A small but significant (dare I say it spiritually important) acknowledgement of our land from Labour.

    But I want Labour to go a whole bunch further, and promise to revive the Department of Conservation from a skeletal and over-reformed institution beholden to corporate sponsorship, to one that honours its terrific staff and rebuilds it to be the primary defender of our birds and forests.

    Then I’ll know they are deeply serious about the environment, right across the system.

  3. Tamati 3

    More of an attack on the Greens than the Government. If Labour out Greens the Greens, what is there left for Green voters?

    • Draco T Bastard 3.1

      I don’t think that will ever happen. Labour is still too wedded to capitalism and the belief that it needs to destroy the environment to work.

      • Tamati 3.1.1

        I don’t really think the Greens are that opposed to the fundamental beliefs of capitalism.

    • mickysavage 3.2

      No it is not. I am certain the greens will fully support the proposal. Local greens that I have talked to are more than happy with the proposal.

      • Tamati 3.2.1

        Of course the Greens will support this proposal. It’s just the sort of policy designed to suck in environmentalist voters that would naturally lean towards the Greens.

        • felix

          Or it’s one of many policies that highlight the fact that there is a huge amount of common ground between Labour and the Greens…

  4. Lanthanide 4

    Ok good. Now what about jobs?

  5. anon 5

    Perhaps some of the vast waste that goes on eco-advertising and eco -brochures eco- festivals and eco- campaigning could go to the scientists . Less eco brain washing and more doing. Neither local or central government need more taxpayers money. Nor a larger percentage spent on the environment. There is a huge share going on environment. We need to use it better.

    • Draco T Bastard 5.1

      Less eco brain washing and more doing.

      But you’re more than happy for the capitalist/consumerist brainwashing that goes on costing us billions every year?

      Neither local or central government need more taxpayers money.

      Actually, they probably do so that they can do the things that need to be done. Also, most of the money disappears in interest. Stop paying the banks and rich people so much for doing SFA and we’ll all be better off.

      • anon 5.1.1

        “But you’re more than happy for the capitalist/consumerist brainwashing that goes on costing us billions every year? ”
        Hmmm no I never said anything of the sort.

        My comment stands as it was. That there has been vast sums on eco advertising and propoganda using taxpayers money – under the guise of environmentalism – but really campaigning. I could use specific examples. But I think we all know what we’re talking about. I would just like environmental funding used on the environment without all the associated politics. Politics should be funded by supporters.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Hmmm no I never said anything of the sort.

          You just failed to point out the billions spent on campaigning for capitalism. Several million of which comes out of taxpayer funds. The rest is paid for by the rest of us through the dead-weight loss of profit.

          But I think we all know what we’re talking about.

          No, I think that you’re just making shit up to justify your ideology like most libertarians. The environment really is quite important – without it we all die so protecting it against the ravages of capitalism is really important.

          I would just like environmental funding used on the environment without all the associated politics.

          Society happen to be political – not economic.

    • greywarbler 5.2


  6. Tracey 6

    kauri grove in cornwall park has notices about staying away from kauri roots.

    once a fortnight in summer wedding and other photographers with their clients taking photos and disturbing roots.

    we have really become a selfish and short sighted society.

    • greywarbler 6.1

      No Tracey just being human. Appreciating the trees and wanting to have their beauty in the back of wedding photos. And the immediate occasion is at top of the mind, the special situation for the couple and their guests.

      It is not in this frame that the average person starts thinking of kauri dieback disease even if they have heard about it. And the temptation to get close to the majestic trees would probably overcome signs. They would have to be roped off to provide a physical mark of where the public stops.

      More needs to be done in the way of signage. People are not going to suddenly become careful greenies, and that is just how we are. And NZ as a whole country seems to wait for a tragic event to happen before it does preventative stuff.

      • felix 6.1.1

        “And the immediate occasion is at top of the mind, the special situation for the couple and their guests.”

        That’s by definition “selfish and short sighted”.

      • Tracey 6.1.2

        and ignored the notices… there are plenty of trees in cornwall park to choose from.

  7. TightyRighty 7

    One day, i wish the Labour Party would do all that the supporters on the standard demand of them if they were in government.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      Considering your own ideology of destroying the environment, the economy and society one wonders why you’d be in so total support of policies that do the opposite.

  8. Clean_power 8

    I suspect David needs to save his own skin before the kauri.

  9. vto 9

    Been planting many kauri down here in Te Waipounamu the last many years – some of them doing very well. Get them in the right spot and they go nuts. Reckon they were plentiful down these parts until the last ice age wiped them out to where they are now, and their spreading by dropping seeds will take to the next ice age for them to return. So, if you lot up in Te Ika-a-Maui ever need any just holler.

    no chedda needed.

    Everyone all over the whole place should just start planting them. They are actually very fast growing, not slow at all, and only take a little space until about the age of 200. Oh, and they are also a very handsome and strong tree.

    Get planting everyone!

    • felix 9.1

      Any advice on kauri planting would be much appreciated vto.

      • vto 9.1.1

        I am no expert felix, just an avid planter of kauri. Have spoken to experts though, which combined with what I have seen goes like this ….. they have two sets of roots – spreading ones near the surface which do all the feeding, don’t get them excessively wet. Then they have a central tap root which apparently goes deep for the water. Humping and hollowing apparently works for this if you have flat swampyish land. Keep them out of spots which catch the frost, or cool/cold air, like depressions or up against a fence at the bottom of a slope where cold air pools (while they are small anyway). They also have a preference for certain pH in soils which I am not sure of.

        Just had a quick google and there is loads of info available. I have just planted where I have been able to, which is not always best places, and hoped for the best. Some have grown about a foot in ten years (wrong spot), while others have surpassed all the other natives planted at the same time and are gigantic already.

        I just load them in wherever I can. I also give them away as gifts and the like. People always look at me sideways (surprise) but I just encourage them to plant plant plant.

        In the Gardens of Tane in Akaroa there are two kauri planted in, I think, 1954 (they have plaques to commemorate something). Those gardens now have been left to revegetate and have a great deal of bush cover which must help with the very dry conditions and loess soils there, but when they were planted the gardens would have been mown dry grass, and dry dry dry most of the time. These two kauri would have trunks probably the circumstance of a human arm circle and be as high as any other tree in the gardens. All in the most improbable place for them.

        Just plant them felix, plant heaps. If they don’t fire then no loss. And they genuinely take up little space – they grow straight up like a pencil for the first 100-200 years before spreading.

        • vto

          hee hee … (blush) “These two kauri would have trunks probably the circumstance of a human arm circle and be as high as any other tree in the gardens”

          … the circumference …… what I mean is you can just reach around them with both arms

          and I exaggerate a little on the height, but they are up there with the tallest in those gardens ….

        • vto

          Oh, and a couple more things…

          They like some shelter from the wind when young (especially cold wind). It was recommended to me that on a larger plantation-type scale cabbage trees are good for this as they provide shelter when younger and then as the kauri get taller the cabbage dies away. I have used any old quick growing native for this, like pittos, though some of the kauris have kept up with the pittos height-wise.

          Also, plant them as smaller plants rather than larger i.e. the ones about 2-3 ft high, not the ones 5-6 or more feet high which need staking. This is a good tip imo – the plants do better.

          They also have a curious growing manner. They will sit dormant for about 4 months and develop a bulbous bud right in the top of the stem/trunk, then all of a sudden this bud will burst out and grow very quickly and tall relative to the plant for about 6 weeks before stopping dormant for the next 4 months or so. It’s great to watch the bulbousing bud and the very rapid growth when it bursts forth. It sprouts usually one set of branches and a tall stem during this growth.

          • felix

            Awesome v, cheers for the tips.

            • Alistair

              Kauri are easy to grow and hardy. For larger areas buy 1 or 2yr old seedlings from a specialist native wholesale nursery like the one at maungatapere, pot them up and leave a couple years until a hand’s breadth high then out into the ground among the weeds to protect from drying winds and staked so they can be seen amongst the weeds.

              Young seedlings can be planted straight out rather than in pots first, but need damp/mossy areas for a good survival rate. Once their roots get growing they shouldn’t be disturbed at all. Once established, they grow faster in open areas with good light, but the one thing they hate while small is drying out over summer months from sun/wind.

              Areas with Pungas/tree ferns can be a problem as masses of fallen fronds will smother small kauris, so stakes are essential amongst pungas to identify them until they grow taller, also the pungas shade can make the forest floor too dark for them to flourish.

          • ScottGN

            They can’t be as frost-tender as people think either since there is one growing very happily in Queenstown Gardens (albeit not as fast as it might grow up north). I’ve seen it totally weighed down under heavy snow or hard frost or summer drought and it doesn’t seem to mind. It does, however get good wind protection from the Douglas firs that grow all around the end of the gardens.

            • vto

              Yep, they are truly one of New Zealand’s great species. They are one of the world’s great trees.

              That this National/Act/Maori/UF government will give $400million to farmers irrigation which degrades the environment and pull $5million from saving the kauri says everything anyone needs to know about what they value on our planet. Shameful.

              Shame on National. Shame on Act. Shame on Maori. Shame on United Future.

          • Antonina

            Yes it is great to see that happening from seed collected. Unfortunately one of mine – planted about 40 years ago seems to have succumbed to the disease.

  10. Labour will have more than kauri dieback to contend with, as the Dept. of Conservation has confirmed to me my fears that two totara trees in Whangarei have a pathogen that the Depart. is looking at that is attacking our totara trees, another icon New Zealander. They say that the disease was first noticed in trees in 2011, and as yet they have not identified it.
    It would seem that our control of pests and diseases is out of control. Add to the two tree diseases, Fruit Fly, Bee Mite, Kiwifruit pathogen, and waterway polution and we may soon no longer be able to claim a ‘Clean Green Image’.
    Dennis Scoles.

    • Tracey 10.1

      just trees. just bees. nothing to worry about cos we are not part of the ecosystem… oh wait

  11. MrSmith 11

    Crocodile tears from a party that supports Mining&Deep sea oil/Gas exploration.

    According to wkik….. we have about 4% for the original forests left and as much as I love the forest and these magnificent trees, stunts like this should be seen for what they are, which looks to me like shameless dog whistling from Labour for the Green vote.

  12. Ian 12

    I used to sell a product to Avocado growers who had issues with Phytophthera.

    Maybe something they could use for the kauris…

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