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.”