MP becomes the voice of the dying kauri

By Lindy Laird

A Labour MP's walk to raise awareness of a disease killing iconic native trees also showed one of the ways kauri dieback is spread - through enjoying the great outdoors.

Labour's associate environment spokesman and West Auckland resident Phil Twyford assured the Advocate he cleaned his boots before, after and at "scrub, spray and walk away" cleaning stations every few kilometres along the 77km Hillary Trail through the Waitakere Ranges.

Mr Twyford is calling on the Government to spend more money on the disease (PTA or phytophthora taxon agathis), which is affecting kauri in the Auckland and Northland regions and which, he said, could wipe out the species in the bush within decades.

It is known to be carried within contaminated soil on footwear, mountain bikes, forestry machinery, vehicles, and through hunting and camping.

Mr Twyford is critical that the Government has spent only $6 million on the disease over five years.

"It's not a lot, is it? They spent $85 million on trying to eradicate the painted apple moth because it was a danger to our pine forests, but can't find a few million bucks to save the kauri."

Further damage to existing kauri forests would be catastrophic, both environmentally and for Northland's economy, which relies on the tourism dollar, Mr Twyford said. He said he hopes to come to Northland to talk with local organisations about his concerns.

"If we're only focusing on containing the dieback and not learning more about it, we might as well give up and go home."

Northland Regional Council biosecurity programme manager Don McKenzie said the council and the Department of Conservation were working to prevent kauri dieback's spread, and find out where it has taken hold.

It is known to be in most of the region's kauri tracts, including Russell, Waipoua and Trounson Forests, and on private land.

It is of major concern, but the disease has not taken as strong a hold in Northland as in the Waitakere Ranges, where about 11 per cent of kauri were affected, Mr McKenzie said.

The council's main task is "to reduce risk" - educating forest visitors and users to clean soil-bearing equipment and encouraging landowners to fence off kauri stands from grazing stock.

- Northern Advocate

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