If we don't act now, it could be too late for kauri, considered taonga (treasure) of our forests.
Kauri only grow in one place in the world — the northern part of New Zealand and are in danger. DoC community ranger Tracey Mezger said the Kaimai Forest is the last in New Zealand where there is no kauri dieback disease.
That's why the kauri movement has begun in Katikati to keep Kaimai kauri standing. The Department of Conservation has teamed up with Katikati Open-Air Art and Western Bay Museum to create a mural at The Arts Junction and educate people about the importance of kauri and share its history to prevent the spread of the disease here.
Kauri dieback disease has been found in Auckland, the Coromandel Peninsula and Great Barrier Island and in northland forests. It is specific to kauri and kills trees of all ages and sizes. It is caused by tiny spores in the soil that attack the roots and trunk and they starve to death.
"Kauri is the forest of life. If we lose it we lose all our species in the forest ecosystem for good. It is very precious and we've got something here to protect."
Tracey said from a scientific perspective and from soil sampling and genetic testing, realistically the disease should be here. She said Ngaiterangi iwi were actively researching and participating in research with Mannaki Whenua Landcare Research to learn more about the genetic strain of kauri in the Kaimai forest. Humans pose the biggest risk. What is invisibly on the bottom of boots is killing our forests, she said.
"We need to change the human connection with the forest so they understand the impact they have on it."
Tracey talked to Steve Graveson from Open-Air Art about a mural portraying the importance of kauri and a suitable location. Steve was keen and felt the front of The Arts Junction building was a perfect fit as it created an entrance and the walls faced different ways so it could be seen.
"That was its point of difference," he said.
Award winning mural artist Shane Walker will paint the mural titled Te Wao-tapu-nui-a-Tane — The Domain of Tane. He said he is excited to be given the opportunity.
He said its cool to see it coming together since the planning stages over the last two months.
"There are heaps of different elements to it, with cultural and historical aspects and pulling it all together."
Museum manager Paula Gaelic has supplied black and white photos for Shane to work with looking at the history of kauri.
Paula said they are fortunate to have all of bushman and photographer Tudor Collins images. His brother Bert Collins bought the cutting rights for the last of the kauri in Katikati in 1936. Tudor came down from Warkworth to take the last photos of kauri logging operations. These will be in the Western Bay Museum's next exhibition, The Kauri — Past, Present and Future which opens on June 14.
DoC is working with the museum to assist with its education programmes and have provided Keep Kauri Standing kits with a brush and a spray bottle to clean and disinfect footwear, along with information about kauri.
"If we can educate everybody we have every opportunity to keep the disease out," Paula said. "I think of Tane Mahuta."
Tane Mahuta (Lord of the Forest) is New Zealand's largest known living kauri tree. It's been alive for around 2000 years and stands at more than 51m tall with a trunk girth in excess of 13m.
The new mural will be unveiled to the public on June 21.
The kauri movement team from left DoC's Tracey Mezger, Paula Gaelic and Steve Graveson aim to keep kauri standing in the Kaimais.
Mural artist Shane Walker projecting images on the walls at The Arts Junction to sketch the design of the new mural before scaffolding goes up to cover the front of the building.