Further public consultation on a new national plan and options for the best type of agency to protect kauri into the future are open, as efforts to deal with kauri dieback disease are stepped up.
"Kauri face a significant threat from dieback disease and introducing a national pest management plan is one of the strongest measures we can take under the Biosecurity Act to protect them," says Roger Smith, head of Biosecurity New Zealand.
"The decisions we make today on the plan, rules, strategy and agency will be critical to the future of kauri, which are a taonga for Māori and all New Zealanders."
Biosecurity New Zealand is coordinating this third and final round of consultation, which follows 2 rounds held during 2018 that has helped to shape the proposals.
The organism Phytophthora agathidicida (PA), which causes the disease, can be spread on the boots and equipment of people visiting kauri forests. There is no known cure for the disease once a tree is infected. The current approach to managing this spread has mostly relied on voluntary compliance. This will change under a National Pest Management Plan for Kauri Dieback Disease.
It's proposed that the plan is supported by new regulations that will require people to do things such as use approved cleaning stations at tracks, and ensure soil is removed and equipment sanitised when leaving or entering forests. Some landowners may be required to develop kauri dieback management plans and other controls for their properties. Failure to follow these rules could result in fines.
"Regulations and fines are a significant step up in our approach to managing kauri dieback, but the community told us it is needed if we are serious about stopping the spread of the disease," says Mr Smith.
"We are also consulting on 2 possible options for the national agency that will implement the pest management plan. One option is for the agency to be a government department, the other is to create a not for profit Crown-owned company.
"We encourage anyone interested in the future of kauri to get involved in this final round of consultation, as it's your last chance to shape our kauri dieback strategy before we make recommendations to ministers.
"A series of meetings and hui at local venues and marae are planned throughout the kaurilands over coming weeks. This will be an opportunity to hear more about our plans, how they will work and the impact on you and your community."
The consultation opened on 18 February and closes on 18 March 2019.
The Kauri Dieback Programme is a collaborative partnership between Biosecurity New Zealand (part of the Ministry for Primary Industries), the Department of Conservation (DOC), Northland Regional Council, Auckland Council, Waikato Regional Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Te Roroa, and the Tangata Whenua Roopu.
The Minister for Biosecurity will make final recommendations on the National pest management plan for kauri dieback disease, the choice of national kauri dieback agency, and any supporting regulations. This will happen once the consultation is completed, comments have been assessed, and advice provided by Biosecurity New Zealand. Any changes are not expected to come into effect until the second half of 2019.
While this consultation is going on, there is still a significant programme of work going on to protect kauri across all kauri regions. Councils and DOC are undertaking track upgrades, significant research into the disease is taking place, and community education campaigns are running, to get people to change their behaviour when visiting kauri forests.