A proactive partnership has been formed to protect Mauao from myrtle rust, a fungal disease which attacks native plants like pōhutukawa, mānuka and rata.
As of May 4, 143 properties in Bay of Plenty were known to be infected with myrtle rust, including two properties in Mount Maunganui.
It was first found in Bay of Plenty in Te Puke last June.
The new initiative, focused on Mauao, is endorsed by Ngā Poutiriao o Mauao, which manages the historic reserve on behalf of the Mauao Trust, the owners.
The Mauao Trust represents Ngāti Ranginui, Ngāi Te Rangi and Ngāti Pukenga.
The new partnership brings together local iwi, the Tauranga City Council, Bay of Plenty Regional Council, Kiwifruit Vine Health, Port of Tauranga, Ministry for Primary Industries and the Department of Conservation.
Dean Flavell, chairman of Ngā Poutiriao o Mauao, said the management plan identified the need to restore and protect the health and wellbeing of Mauao.
"Mauao is an iconic landscape in Tauranga Moana. Apart from its obvious cultural significance, it also has high ecological values."
He said the collaborative approach to actively protect Mauao from myrtle rust would help towards early detection.
The serious fungal disease affects plants in the myrtle family, as well as some common garden plants such as ramarama and lilly pilly, according to the Ministry for Primary Industries website.
Mauao has a large number of myrtle plants, particularly pōhutukawa, mānuka and kānuka.
More than a million visitors visit the base and summit tracks each year and it is one of the most culturally significant and tapu sites to iwi.
Bay of Plenty is one of the regions most affected by myrtle rust since it was first detected on mainland New Zealand last May.
The region's climate conditions are said to be ideal for the windborne fungus.
An ongoing surveillance programme has been established, which will monitor and notify any potential infections and assist with managing any diseased plants that are found.
Kia Maia Ellis, co-ordinator of the Mauao Surveillance Team, said a myrtle rust outbreak could destroy a significant amount of native vegetation on Mauao "and we need to be sure of early detection to reduce any major impacts on this taonga (treasure)".
Iwi kaitiaki, locals, council staff and other community volunteers have undertaken specialist training to identify and map the susceptible myrtle plants.
Ministry for Primary Industries myrtle rust incident controller Dr Catherine Duthie said the fungus was proving to be a difficult challenge to manage and contain.
She said it was not yet known how myrtle rust would affect New Zealand in the long run.
"But we are committed to doing everything we can do to find new infections early, eliminate it where we can, and slow its spread where we can."
She said the Mauao initiative was another positive step towards building biosecurity knowledge and skills at a grassroots level.
Information signs have been erected at track entrances to Mauao to boost awareness of myrtle rust.
Tourism Bay of Plenty marketing manager Kath Low said Mauao was one of New Zealand's most popular short walks and was a jewel in the crown from a visitor experience perspective.
"It is a cultural icon which is steeped in rich history and is of enormous importance to iwi and all who live in Tauranga. We need to respect and protect Mauao [so] that we can all enjoy the view of, and experience on, the mountain for generations to come."
If people suspect possible sightings of the fungus while on Mauao, they should report it to 0800 80 99 66.
Mycoplasma bovis update
The Bay of Plenty remains at low risk of cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis, which was detected in the Waikato region for the first time last week.
However, there are some properties in the Bay where a "forward trace" – cattle moved from other farms suspected of infection – has been identified.
Over the next week, a decision will be made about the next steps in the fight against the disease, based on technical advice and feedback from industry.
Mycoplasma bovis is not a food safety risk, but it is a disease that affects animal welfare and production and can cause untreatable mastitis, pneumonia, arthritis and late-term abortions in cattle.
It is thought 38 farms in New Zealand are infected with the disease, with potentially 70 farms overall.
It was first detected in the South Island nearly a year ago and its spread has accelerated in the past month.