Local attempts to tackle kauri dieback get major boost

5 Jul 2018

Attempts to better manage the local fight against kauri dieback in Northland have been given significant practical and financial boosts in two newly-adopted local authority plans.

Collectively the Northland Regional Council’s newly-adopted Long Term Plan 2018-2028 (LTP) and its Regional Pest Management Plan (RPMP) for Northland contain a range of measures – and importantly, associated funding – to tackle the kauri-killing disease.

Bruce Howse, the council’s Group Manager – Environmental Services, says among the new initiatives is an effective tripling of the council’s previous annual kauri dieback funding to almost $300,000.

“This boost – which took effect from 01 July – means we can increase staff numbers to specifically respond to latest information about where the disease may be present on private land in the North, and we’ve already begun advertising for two new staff accordingly.”

The council’s new Regional Pest Management Plan, which formally took effect late last month, contains a number of rules related to kauri dieback, including a legal requirement for any suspected dieback to be reported to an appropriate management agency.  (The NRC is one of the first local authorities in New Zealand with rules that specifically address kauri dieback.)

Mr Howse says despite recent incorrect claims to the contrary, a detailed region-wide aerial survey for dieback – covering some 1.2 million hectares – had been successfully completed over summer.

The survey was done via fixed wing aircraft using an innovative system of high resolution camera equipment developed privately by an NRC staff member and which had allowed the capture of much more detailed data than earlier flyovers.

“As a result, we’re aware of about 100 high-priority sites on private and district council land that are being urgently followed up on the ground to establish if the disease is present.”

“There are also another roughly 200 lower priority sites – again on private or district council land – where we suspect the disease might possibly be present and which also may need further investigation.”

Kauri are found throughout the Upper North Island, but Mr Howse says unlike its Auckland Council neighbour – which owns large tracts of kauri forest – the NRC does not own any publicly accessible land with the trees.

“In Northland, the vast majority of these taonga (kauri) are scattered over thousands of hectares of land controlled by the Department of Conservation (DOC) or are on privately-owned land.”

He says the council has been working closely with DOC and a number of other partners to learn more about, and try to control, kauri dieback locally for a number of years, pointing out that DOC in Northland has been “very committed” to this process.

Tangata whenua too were hugely invested in the process, including Te Roroa, whose members the council was working closely with as part of a tactical plan which aims to stop the spread of the disease in the Waipoua Forest, home to iconic kauri like Tane Mahuta.

“Council also has processes in place to work with Northland landowners and communities who wish to be upskilled in disease identification and sharing with them how to reduce the risk of disease spread.”

To date, the council had worked with landowners to help design about 30 tailor-made management plans for those keen to protect their privately-owned kauri from wandering stock and other threats.

It also coordinates a regional stakeholder group of agencies, including the Matakohe Museum, to keep the up to date with latest developments involving the disease.

Mr Howse says a range of information about the disease is available from  www.kauridieback.co.nz