New road signs calling on travellers to take action to protect kauri are being installed as part of the ongoing campaign to save the national taonga from dieback disease.
The signs, which have been erected initially in parts of the Coromandel and soon in Northland, alert road users they are entering a kauri protection area, and reinforce the need to clean footwear and equipment when entering and leaving kauri forests. It is hoped signs will also be rolled out to other kauri regions in future.
"The purpose of the signs is to help build a stronger message around the importance of following the cleaning steps when anyone visits kauri lands," says John Sanson, manager of recovery and pest management for Biosecurity New Zealand, which coordinates the national Kauri Dieback Programme alongside partner agencies and groups.
"This is because people are still the biggest factor in spreading the disease, through contaminated soil being collected on boots and gear.
"We know through our behavioural research to date that while there is generally a high level of awareness of the threat of kauri dieback disease, unfortunately, this does not always flow through into people doing the right thing when they visit kauri forests," Mr Sanson says.
"The new signs give a more direct message that if people are stopping to enjoy our kauri forests, they need to always clean their footwear and equipment if we are to ensure kauri will still be around for the next generation of visitors."
Six of the signs have already been placed along high traffic locations in parts of the Coromandel, while 2 of the new signs are due to be placed at entry points to Northland's Waipoua Forest on State Highway 12, home of Tane Mahuta and other iconic trees. It is hoped that more signs can be rolled out across other kauri regions pending further discussions with the New Zealand Transport Agency and other stakeholders.
"Thanks to the support of the Transport Agency, we're able to get this first batch of signs up in time for the busier summer period when typically more people are on the road and visiting kauri lands."
Mr Sanson says the signs are one small part of a much wider ongoing programme of work being coordinated by the kauri dieback partnership, which includes the Department of Conservation (DOC), Tangata Whenua Roopu, Te Roroa iwi, Auckland Council, and the Waikato, Bay of Plenty, and Northland Regional Councils.
"The work programme to fight kauri dieback is continuing across many fronts, which includes initiatives such as upgraded tracks and cleaning stations in high use areas, track closures, ongoing aerial surveillance, testing and field trials, and continued investment in science and research."
Further research is planned this summer by Biosecurity New Zealand and DOC to better understand what designs and signage most effectively drive compliance at cleaning stations.
These results will provide valuable insight to all programme partners and communities in developing their wider communications and behavioural change tools.