20 Jul 2017

Disease rates spark fear kauri could be extinct within 20 years

From Morning Report, 7:41 am on 20 July 2017

Kauri could be wiped out from the Waitakere Ranges within the next 20 years if the Ministry for Primary Industries doesn't take urgent action, an Auckland community group is warning.

Dying kauri trees

Dying kauri trees Photo: RNZ / Alison Ballance

Friends of Regional Parks secretary Mels Barton said she had seen the native trees die off in the Waitakere Ranges for years, and figures released by Auckland Council indicated the problem was getting worse.

Between 2011 and 2016 the spread of kauri dieback disease increased on average from 8 percent to more than 19 percent in the Ranges.

The Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is the national co-ordinator of the $26 million Kauri Dieback Programme, which was set up in 2014 to try to control the disease.

Friends of Regional Parks said the Ministry's programme had serious and systemic failings and wrote to Minister Nathan Guy with its concerns.

"MPI are not holding meetings, they're not commissioning research, there's blocks on the funding. Stuff is just not happening," said Dr Barton.

But Mr Guy backed his ministry.

In a letter to Friends of Regional Parks, he said the level of public awareness of the disease had doubled since 2011, more research was being done than ever before and working with community volunteers remained a priority.

Auckland Council said it would be releasing in the next few weeks a report on the spread of kauri dieback between 2011 and 2016.