Joint response to tackle kauri dieback

26 November 2008

Kauri dieback (Phytophthora taxon Agathis or PTA), the newly-identified disease attacking kauri trees, is being addressed by six agencies working together as one response team.

MAF Biosecurity New Zealand, the Department of Conservation and four regional councils - Auckland Regional Council, Northland Regional Council, Environment Bay of Plenty and Environment Waikato - have set up a response team to identify and manage the risks to kauri.

Kauri dieback is a serious threat to kauri forest and individual kauri trees in the upper North Island. Believed to be a soil-borne disease caused by a soil pathogen, PTA is specific to kauri and can kill trees and seedlings of all ages. Affected trees show yellowing leaves, canopy thinning, dead branches and lesions that bleed resin across the lower part of the trunk. Phytophthora are similar to fungi but are members of a separate phylum known as chromists or water moulds.

Kauri Dieback Joint Agency Response spokesman David Yard says PTA is believed to be spread mainly through soil and soil water movement.

"We strongly suspect it can be transferred by people, tracked from place to place on shoes, equipment and tyres.

"While research and surveys are underway, we need the public's help to stop the disease spreading further. There are simple things people can do right now to prevent further spread."

Visitors to kauri forest areas should:

  • stick to defined tracks in parks and reserves
  • clean footwear, tyres and any equipment in contact with soil before and after leaving kauri forest areas
  • avoid disturbing the roots of kauri trees.

"There is a lot we don't know about this disease and it's essential that we do more research into where it is, how it spreads and what can be done to stop it," he says.

"The team is already busy trying to determine how widely spread the disease is, and is developing a joint approach to managing the risks posed to kauri ecosystems, high value kauri areas and iconic kauri trees. A priority is to find practical ways of limiting its spread."

"Kauri forests are an essential part of our ecosystem and are culturally significant to all New Zealanders. With our agencies working together, bringing their expertise to the table, we can make a collaborative effort to help try to limit the spread of PTA.

"Over the coming months we will also be engaging with iwi, local councils, industry and forest user groups across the upper North Island."

"There are a number of questions about PTA distribution and effects that we currently don't have answers to. The joint agency response is working towards getting those answers through a technical advisory group, with members from Landcare Research, SCION, DOC, ARC and Auckland University. A Maori advisory group is being formed, reflecting the significance of this taonga species to Maori and the importance of their kaitiaki role.

More information, including questions and answers, is available at www.kauridieback.co.nz or call 0800 NZ KAURI (0800 69 52874). Members of the public can report diseased trees to this number.

For further information:

David Yard
Kauri Dieback Joint Agency Response spokesman
04 8940841 or 029 894 0841

Glyn Walters, Kauri Dieback Joint Agency Response communications
366 2000 ext 8114 or 021 417 188

Contact MPI

for general enquiries phone

0800 00 83 33