26 Oct 2012

Moriori carved trees need urgent protection - archaeologist

5:33 am on 26 October 2012

An Otago University archaeologist says stronger protection is needed urgently to stop the rapid deterioration of the famous Moriori tree carvings on the Chatham Islands.

It's thought there were once more than 1000 karaka or kopi trees carved by Moriori about 350 years ago, and of these, just 100 are left.

The Hokotehi Moriori Trust says they hold great cultural and spiritual importance and need to be saved.

A senior lecturer in archaeology at Otago University, Dr Ian Barber, says the trees are dying so quickly from erosion and disease, they could all be gone within a decade.

Dr Barber says shelter belts will protect the trees from wind damage and fertilisation treatments could extend their life.

He says the trees are internationally significant and the Government has neglected them, despite having the knowledge, means, and capacity to keep them alive.