Sav­ing our kauri trees

Western Leader - - FRONT PAGE - SI­MON SMITH

Auck­land’s big­gest kauri forests are set to be off lim­its to the pub­lic from May.

The city’s en­vi­ron­men­tal com­mit­tee met on Fe­bru­ary 20 to dis­cuss tougher mea­sures to com­bat kauri dieback dis­ease.

It has voted to look to close all forested ar­eas of the Waita¯kere Ranges, align­ing Auck­land Coun­cil­closed ar­eas with a ra¯hui es­tab­lished by Te Kaw­erau a¯ Maki. It would also look to close high-risk kauri tracks in the Hunua Ranges.

The coun­cil wanted to im­ple­ment the clo­sures by May 1 af­ter con­sul­ta­tion with iwi and lo­cal boards.

Auck­land mayor Phil Goff said the move was one of the most im­por­tant is­sues they will con­front as a coun­cil – the po­ten­tial ex­tinc­tion of an iconic species.

‘‘The cur­rent ap­proach that coun­cil is tak­ing is not work­ing, for a va­ri­ety of rea­sons, chief of which is the ac­cep­tance of Auck­lan­ders.

‘‘This de­ci­sion sends a much stronger mes­sage that leaves no room for con­fu­sion,’’ he added.

Goff said the coun­cil would still need the money from a tar­geted rate to pay for the clo­sures.

‘‘None of us want to have our grand­son or grand­daugh­ter on our knee and an­swer the ques­tion of: ‘Grandad what did you do to stop the ex­tinc­tion of the iconic kauri tree’?’’’

Waita¯kere Ranges Pro­tec­tion So­ci­ety chair John Edgar said the mixed mes­sag­ing over the sum­mer months, where only some tracks were closed, led to con­fu­sion.

‘‘Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple con­tin­ued to pour into the Ranges and spread kauri dieback dis­ease.’’

The clo­sures would cost $3.8m in the first year, in­clud­ing $2.2 mil­lion to en­force the clo­sures with tar­geted pa­trols. It was not yet bud­geted for, how­ever, and still had to be con­sulted on.

En­vi­ron­men­tal com­mit­tee chair­woman Penny Hulse said there would be some ex­cep­tions, such as beaches and grass­land ar­eas.

‘‘We are work­ing with Te Kaw­erau a¯ Maki on some other ar­eas that may well be ex­cep­tions.’’

The Tree Coun­cil sec­re­tary Dr Mels Bar­ton said she was de­lighted the coun­cil had seen the ur­gency of the is­sue.

‘‘We are not there yet. But it is def­i­nitely a mas­sive stride in the right di­rec­tion.’’

The coun­cil has al­ready closed a third of the tracks in the Waita¯kere Ranges to pro­tect kauri.

There had also been tri­als of phos­phite in­jec­tions into kauri in the park, and feral pig con­trol.

Kauri dieback dis­ease is a fun­gus mainly spread on hu­man shoes. There is no cure.

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