Dis­ease nears Ta¯ne Mahuta

The Northland Age - - Local News -

North­land’s iconic gi­ant kauri tree Ta¯ne Mahuta has been checked and cleared of kauri dieback dis­ease although two sites in the wider area have again tested pos­i­tive for the pathogen — with one just 60m away.

Waipoua For­est kaiti­aki Te Roroa and the De­part­ment of Con­ser­va­tion (DoC) con­firmed on Thurs­day new test re­sults in­di­cated the area in the im­me­di­ate vicin­ity to Ta¯ne Mahuta was clear of Phy­toph­thora agath­idi­cida (PA).

How­ever, two sites lo­cated about 60m and 90m away were pos­i­tive for the pathogen.

Te Roroa sci­ence and re­search man­ager Taoho Pat­u­awa said the test re­sults val­i­dated the need for fur­ther pro­tec­tion mea­sures to con­tinue within the for­est.

He said it would also help to make an in­formed de­ci­sion on the fu­ture of the Ta¯ne Mahuta walk­way — which has re­mained open, with ex­tra mea­sures in place to pre­vent the spread of kauri dieback.

“I am pleased that no sign of the dis­ease has been de­tected any closer to the ran­gatira [chief] kauri tree Ta¯ne Mahuta, but the risk still re­mains,” Pat­u­awa said.

The soil sam­pling was con­ducted by sci­en­tists at Plant and Food Re­search and staff of Te Roroa, after con­sul­ta­tion with DoC, from Oc­to­ber 8-10 to es­tab­lish how close the dis­ease was to Ta¯ne Mahuta.

In to­tal, 104 sam­ples were taken on a 200m by 200m grid. This in­cluded a ring of seven sam­ples taken about 2m from the base of the trunk of Ta¯ne Mahuta, where PA was not de­tected.

Two sam­ples taken about 60m and 90m away from Ta¯ne Mahuta tested pos­i­tive for PA. Both sites were no closer to Ta¯ne than the site con­firmed with the dis­ease in June this year and were not pub­licly ac­ces­si­ble.

“After dis­cov­er­ing kauri dieback near Ta¯ne Mahuta ear­lier this year, we avoided a knee-jerk re­sponse and took a care­fully planned ap­proach, us­ing avail­able sci­ence to de­tect the spread of the pathogen in the im­me­di­ate area sur­round­ing Ta¯ne Mahuta,” Pat­u­awa said.

“We also ac­knowl­edge the sup­port of DoC and Biose­cu­rity New Zealand who have been work­ing in part­ner­ship with us to pro­tect one our most sig­nif­i­cant and sym­bolic taonga tuku iho.

“It is still vi­tal that all vis­i­tors to Waipoua re­spect our wishes to stay on the track and clean their footwear when they visit and leave the for­est,” he said.

DoC direc­tor of the North­ern North Is­land Sue Reed-Thomas said more mon­i­tor­ing would be done to en­sure the risk of the dis­ease was man­aged.

“We’ll con­tinue to pour all our en­ergy into restrict­ing the spread of the dis­ease, with the Ta¯ne Mahuta Re­sponse Plan as our guide. A five-year pig con­trol pro­gramme for Waipoua For­est will be un­der­way shortly to move pigs out of core ar­eas and where the dis­ease is nearby,” Reed-Thomas said.

“The Ta¯ne Mahuta site has long been one of the most pro­tected ar­eas in the coun­try from kauri dieback, with board­walks, clean­ing sta­tions and mem­bers of Te Roroa as am­bas­sadors in place. It’s im­por­tant for ev­ery­one to stick to the board­walks and clean their footwear thor­oughly be­fore en­ter­ing and leav­ing Waipoua For­est.”

Ta¯ ne Mahuta, the coun­try’s largest kauri tree, in Waipoua For­est, is free of kauri dieback dis­ease, but the tree killer is less than 100 me­tres away from the iconic gi­ant of the for­est.

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