Saving our kauri trees
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.