The New Zealand Herald

Park decision a very good day for the trees

- Simon Wilson comment

Kauri dieback infection has doubled in the Waitakere Ranges in the past five years. Unless we change what we’re doing now, say the biosecurit­y and parks managers of Auckland Council, all the kauri in that forest will be infected within 30 years. And because there is, as yet, no known cure, all those trees will die.

Councillor John Watson told the council yesterday that if kauri dieback was a human pathogen, we would treat it exclusivel­y as a biosecurit­y issue and close off the entire area right now. He thought we should adopt that approach with kauri dieback.

His colleagues listened politely but did not agree. They adopted a more workable approach.

Still, what they’ve agreed is a very big thing: the biggest closure of a public park in New Zealand history, they were told.

There had been three reasons to take drastic action. One was to try to preserve the inherent value of the Waitakere forest: its lifeforce, its mauri. We are, all of us, the kaitiaki of that forest. Its guardians.

The second was that there are still important stands of kauri in those ranges that are not infected. It’s possible they can be saved.

The third was that the rest of our forests can be saved. Kauri dieback has not yet infected many of Auckland’s other forests and the council wants to keep it that way.

The key to doing that is to stop people tramping infected soil out of Waitakere forest into other areas.

The council’s decision marks a significan­t step forward in its relationsh­ip with mana whenua. Last year the local iwi, Te Kawerau a Maki, set up a rahui that put the park off limits. But as far as the iwi was concerned, the council ignored it.

Since then both sides have worked hard, and with goodwill, to find common ground. Their success will be evident on April 19 and 20, when experts from both sides walk the 13 or so tracks whose status is still unclear. They’ll decide if those tracks are ready to reopen, or need more work, or should stay closed.

It’s a work in progress. But it’s a very good work to have in progress.

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